Composers Concordance co-directors, Gene Pritsker, Milica Paranosic and Dan Cooper, ruminate on ‘Evolution’ their annual contemporary music festival. This year’s event is comprised of 5 concerts over 7 days in New York City, Friday, Nov. 30 – Dec. 7, 2012.
Dan Cooper, Milica Paranosic, Gene Pritsker
Why is this year’s festival titled ‘Evolution’?
Gene Prisker: We were interested in seeing how this festival could evolve and grow in sound throughout its 5 concerts. It starts off without any performers, [60 x 60] just electronic music that manipulates sound with short one-minute compositions. The next concert Soli, adds a soloist on stage and incorporates the dimension of the performer. We continue to chamber music, Composers Play Composers Marathon, where composers play their own music with 1 or 2 other performers, creating 30 three-minute compositions which explore the small chamber music repertoire as performed by the creator of the music. The ensemble concert, Nine Live, puts nine composers together to play large chamber music written by the composers. We focus on examining music written by a composer when they know they will have to perform it themselves. We end our growing evolution with Legends, a chamber orchestra featuring 18 musicians on stage performing brand new chamber orchestra pieces.
What makes your festival different, special?
Milica Paranosic: We tend to think of ‘themes’ and ‘concepts’ when programming our concerts, much like any composer thinks of a ‘theme’ or a ‘concept’ when writing an individual piece. We program a lot of theme-based concerts throughout the year: generations, contrasts, and marathons. In a sense, we approach a whole concert like a ‘composition’; we carefully plan the pace, the beginning, middle and end, the stylistic coherence (or diversity), the flow. Our festivals bring that concept to the next level. Here we ‘compose’ concerts into a larger-scale event. The concerts are scheduled tightly within a weeklong period so that we stay very connected, and in the ‘zone’ between our opening and closing concerts. The same applies to our audience. The first ‘movement’ (our first concert) is still fresh in their minds by the time they hear the closing ‘finale’ (our last concert). Another thing we insist on is having some type of a social gathering after EACH concert of the festival. Audiences like to hang with the musicians after concerts, mingle and meet the ‘real’ people, off-stage. And we like to hang with them and each other. We feel that the social interaction with our audiences is crucial for vitality of our work. We learn a lot from their comments and feedback.
What is the most challenging aspect of putting together an ambitious production like this?
Milica Paranosic: Strangely enough, it is NOT music, even though each one of us will have written 5 compositions for the festival, and learned and rehearsed many more. It’s intense and challenging, but music is what we do, so these challenges seem natural to us. We are used to them, and we love and embrace them. The administrative and production part of it can be extremely frustrating from time to time. Scheduling over 100 participants, securing venues, negotiating fees, finding rehearsal spaces, advertising, and the inevitable last minute cancellations, changes of plans or missing cables can get really hectic.
Which one of the 5 concerts would you recommend?
Milica Paranosic: I wouldn’t. As I said earlier, the point is in seeing the whole package. The concerts are EXTREMELY different from one another. They show quite distinctive approaches and highlight many sides of our group and the new music scene in general. People who choose to visit all the concerts become part of the “family” by the end of this intense week. Many musicians who were our audience last year are our guest composers or performers this season. Music and performance create very strong, very real bonds.
Who’s more important, the composer or the performer?
Dan Cooper: Both are crucial here, and so is who’s listening. There was perhaps a time in contemporary music when the composition seemed to be all that mattered, when performers and listeners seemed almost incidental to the proceedings, or relegated to some lesser role. When we say we look forward to hearing these programs – perhaps one could say we ‘hear forward’ to hearing how for instance conductor Thomas Carlo Bo will interpret the orchestra scores, and how instrumentalists such as Kathleen Supové, Valerie Coleman, Lara St. John, and John Clark, among many others, will breathe life into the notes on the printed page with their individual interpretations. If elements such as tempo, dynamics, and tone color were always precisely the same for a given piece of music, life would be very dull indeed. Many of the artists devoting their time and talent to this festival are of course themselves hybrids: composer-performers, who’ll attend the various performances as avid listeners too. All the venues, including The DiMenna Center, Shapeshifter Lab, Drom, and Faust Harrison Pianos, will enhance the experience in different ways. Even the 60×60 electronic event at Spectrum NYC, while ostensibly ‘performer-less’, is pertinent here, as for instance one can hear Florian Maier’s distinctive guitar playing on his 60-second ‘tape’ piece, while others such as Daniel Palkowski and Milica Paranosic could be described as virtuoso computer-ists.
The Marathon concert, which feature 30 composers, seems like a big challenge, how is this put together?
Gene Prisker: We had this idea for an event for a long time. Why not have a concert made up entirely of composers performing their own works? So we tried it out with the first Marathon in 2010 and now we are on our 4th one. We had a list of composers that we would want to be in this Marathon and this year we nominated around 90. On a random day and time I e-mailed them all, inviting them to participate. The first 30 to respond became part of this show. This random criteria, being by your computer by chance and responding to my e-mail, was impartial and exciting. We feel that this event will be unusual and eclectic.
The 5th concert of the festival is entitled ‘Legends’ – can you talk a bit more about it?
Gene Prisker: Since we are focusing on the American composer, we were very interested in what Dvorak said in the late 19th century about the future of American music. He showed us that we have our own indigenous music, mostly from the native population and from the African heritage that cultivated here. All the new orchestral compositions on this concert will bring an influence from either Native American sources (melodies and rhythms from Iroquois, Cherokee and other tribes) and/or the African tradition (tribal rhythms, blues, jazz etc.). Much of the 20th and 21st century music is already influenced by these cultures but with this concert we want to highlight this further and write brand new 21st century compositions that directly link and identify with these very unique and influential musical traditions.
Dan Cooper: It’ll be a fun and varied program including movements from Otto Luening’s ‘Potawatomi Legends,’ based in part on his experiences growing up in Wisconsin in the first years of the 20th century. As a nonagenarian, Otto was dubbed ‘Bem-Set’ (‘he who walks’) at a Potawatomi naming ceremony in NYC. Valerie Coleman’s ‘Red Clay and Mississippi Delta’ and Dave Soldier’s ‘Thung Kwian Sunrise’ will also be performed.
Which instruments do you all play?
Dan Cooper: Gene’s an amazing electric guitarist and occasionally he sits down at the piano for impromptu bebop – so I tell him he sounds just like Art Tatum – for a maximum of 12 seconds! He also raps indefatigably, occasionally in Russian. Milica has an incredible voice and I’ve been fortunate to accompany her distinctive singing on numerous events. She also plays keys, Theremin, and the Serbian gusle with aplomb, and is a technical wizard. My main instrument is bass guitar, usually this 7-string bass that I co-designed with the Overwater Company in Carlisle, U.K. I also play flute and electronics. Recently, the three of us performed a trio for two melodicas and flute over at the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition in Red Hook – sadly hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc there this past Monday.
Composers Concordance Festival II ‘Evolution’ Performance Schedule
Concert #1: 60 x 60
Instrumentation: Electronic Music / Multimedia
60 Electronic Composers
Friday, November 30th at 8pm
121 Ludlow Street, 2nd floor, NYC
The festival commences with an electronic music / multimedia event at Spectrum – that burgeoning Ludlow Street venue described in The New York Times as recalling “New York’s experimental-music lofts of the 1970s and ’80s”. In partnership with Vox Novus / 60 x 60, the program will feature 60 one-minute works by composers including Joel Chadabe, Robert Dick, Lainie Fefferman, Mari Kimura, Joan La Barbara, Jascha Narveson, and Robert Voisey, among many others.
Concert #2: Soli
Kathleen Supové, Eleonor Sandresky, & Jed Distler
Saturday, December 1st at 7pm
at Faust Harrison Pianos
207 West 58th Street, NYC
Free Event – Note: seating is limited.
This unique concert brings together, in an intimate boutique setting, three of today’s piano music stars: Kathleen Supové, Eleonor Sandresky, and Jed Distler. Each a champion with a distinctive approach to piano music interpretation and presentation, these artists perform their own compositions, as well as a triple-piano suite composed specifically for them by Milica Paranosic, Gene Pritsker, Dan Cooper, Jed Distler, and Daniel Palkowski.
Concert #3: Composers Play Composers Marathon
Instrumentation: Solo, Duo, Trio
Sunday, December 2nd from 3pm to 7pm
at Drom NYC
85 Avenue A, NYC
Tickets $15 (includes one drink)
When did composers become non-performers? We can trace the tradition of the composer-as-performer back to the beginnings of western classical music. This 4th Annual Composers Play Composers Marathon, presented at the lower east side’s most excellent venue Drom NYC, explores the connection between composers and their given instruments, as well as how composers go about writing music in which they know that they will be the performer. This matinée event features no fewer than 30 different composers performing on their own succinct solos, duos, and trios.
Concert #4: Nine Live
Composers Concordance Ensemble
Tuesday, December 4th at 7:30pm
at Shapeshifter Lab
18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn
It’ll be well worth the trip over to Brooklyn’s cutting-edge venue Shapeshifter Lab to hear this rambunctious nonet made up entirely of composers, performing a set of nine premieres. This event features the Composers Concordance Ensemble: composer-violinist Dave Soldier, composer-clarinetist Kinan Azmeh, composer-trumpeter Franz Hackl, composer-hornist John Clark, composer-vocalist-keyboardist-gusle player Milica Paranosic, composer-pianist-keyboardist Patrick Grant, composer-guitarist Gene Pritsker, composer-bass guitarist Dan Cooper, and composer-percussionist Peter Jarvis.
Concert #5: Legends
Instrumentation: Chamber Orchestra
Composers Concordance Chamber Orchestra (CCCO), Lara St. John – violin, Valerie Coleman – flute, Thomas Carlo Bo – conductor
Friday, December 7th at 8pm
DiMenna Center – Mary Flagler Cary Hall
450 West 37th Street, NYC
$20 day of performance, $15 students and advance tickets
Tickets available online.
In 1893, legendary Czech composer Antonín Dvořák spoke in NYC of the influence of Native American and African American music on his Symfonie. He urged American composers to focus attention on what “must” be the foundation for “the future music of this country.” The concert program is entitled ‘Legends’, recalling the timeless melodies of Dvořák himself, and examining the influence of Native American and African American music on contemporary orchestral composition. Conducted by Thomas Carlo Bo, this debut performance of CCCO features violinist Lara St. John and flutist Valerie Coleman (of Imani Winds) as soloists. Moreover, each member of this orchestra is a true champion of contemporary music, including bass trombonist Dave Taylor, pianist Taka Kigawa, percussionist Peter Jarvis, violinist Lynn Bechtold, and oboist Keve Wilson, among others. Don’t miss this event, to include the distinctive compositions of Valerie Coleman, Dan Cooper, Patrick Hardish (Founding Director), Otto Luening (‘Potawatomi Legends’), Milica Paranosic, Joseph Pehrson (Founding Director), Gene Pritsker, and Dave Soldier.