*Featuring a pre-concert talk with John Luther Adams*
About the Show
Late Night at National Sawdust is a quarterly live taping of Relevant Tones, a contemporary music podcast hosted by Seth Boustead that will also be broadcast in real time on the nationally syndicated WFMT Radio Network. Live radio has never been so intimate.
The broadcast will be preceded by the Discovery Series, a process-oriented exploration of musical creativity led by composer/pianist Jeremy Gill. The three composers to be performed, chosen from a pool of more than five hundred, are Henrique Coe, Adina Dumitrescu and Ryan Homsey.
About the Show
AEOLUS is inspired by the mythological keeper of the winds, Aeolus, from the Odyssey. In the classic tale, wind shapes human destiny. In the opera, wind, reinterpreted as breath, is a compositional tool. AEOLUS charts Ueno’s personal odyssey, linking impressionistic scenes from memories, found objects and literary fragments from the composer’s past. Musically, the opera juxtaposes “arias” by Ueno and Connery; virtuosic, voiceless passages by FLUX; and meditative textual interludes.
About the Show
A concert of the music of composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa, performed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) with Bielawa as vocal soloist. The program, part of National Sawdust’s series curated by composer Theo Bleckmann, will feature Bielawa’s A Collective Cleansing (2000) for solo voice and digital audio, Graffiti Dell’amante (2010) for string quartet and soprano, Genesis Again (1998) for soprano and violin, and two arias from her episodic opera Vireo: “The Bat” and “The Dragon and the Girl.” Bielawa lovingly dedicates this concert to the memory of longtime MATA Board President, Ellen Brody Hughes and says, “While this evening centers around works I’ve created expressly for myself as vocalist, this concert nevertheless turns outwards rather than in, a celebration of more than two decades of collaborations.” ACME members performing include Ben Russell (violin), Laura Lutzke (violin), Caleb Burhans (viola), and Paul Wiancko (cello).
Bielawa premiered A Collective Cleansing in September 2000 at NYC’s The Kitchen. It is her only work for her own voice multi-tracked, and includes selected choral excerpts in both Greek and English from the Aeschylus tragedy The Suppliant Maidens. Bielawa says, “You will hear me sing with 10 other Lisas, 17 years younger than this one!”
Graffiti Dell’amante is an open-ended musical-dramatic exploration of the multi-faceted predicament of the Lover from Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse. Bielawa describes Graffiti dell’amante as “a veritable explosion of collaborative energies, drawing on an invitation from Brooklyn Rider to make a piece for us to perform together during my Rome Prize year, although it was ACME who gave these songs their first NYC performance in 2010. Three of the five short pieces in this set celebrate the work of my Rome Prize colleagues – poets Peter Campion and Eliza Griswold, and Leonard Barkan’s joyful translation of one of Michelangelo’s love sonnets. This piece was commissioned by Ellen Brody Hughes.”
Genesis Again was written in collaboration with violinist Carla Kihlstedt and Vireolibrettist Erik Ehn and was premiered at the Bang on a Can Festival in New York in 1999. Scored sections trade off with improvised sections, sometimes together, sometimes with violin alone. This project was a study for the last scene of a chamber opera entitled Spooky Action at a Distance, written in free response to Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. The opera centers on the shape and limits of compassion, through the story of a doctor’s reaction to losing patients by means beyond her control.
“The Bat” and “The Dragon and the Girl” are arias from Bielwa’s current project Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch’s Accuser, a new opera composed on a libretto by Erik Ehn and directed by Charles Otte, which is unprecedented in that it is being created expressly for episodic release via broadcast and online media. ACME brought Vireo’s aria “The Bat” to life in the opera’s ninth episode, which was filmed at Alcatraz prison in June 2016. Bielawa says, “Not long after arriving in NYC in 1992 (and meeting Theo Bleckmann, my very first month here!), I began working with playwright Erik Ehn, whose libretto for my current made-for-TV opera Vireo saw its first draft in 1994. The two arias I will sing from Vireo were both sketched out in 1994 but not worked through or completed until 2016.” Vireo, winner of the 2015 ASCAP Deems Taylor/Virgil Thomson Multimedia Award, is a partnership with KCETLink and an artist residency project of Grand Central Art Center (GCAC) in Santa Ana, an outgrowth of Cal State Fullerton, Director/Chief Curator John Spiak. In May 2017, KCET will release the entire season of Vireo at once for free, on-demand streaming, which is a first for the network.
For at least the past fifty years, the most important and exciting site of new fusions of music has been in Jazz. Perhaps this is owing to its roots in collective improvisation and musical play, or in Jazz’s consistent pursuit of innovative timbres, rhythms, and forms. Fusions with Latin music go back at least to Charles Mingus (Haitian Fight Song) and the innovations of Miles Davis in fusing Jazz with Rock (See his Bitches Brew) seem to have opened up the possibility of many others. In the past few years, a new fusion with rap and hip-hop has been showing us ways in which two African-American musical innovations can come together in a sort of musical dialogue.
The group “Sélébéyone” takes its name from a Wolof word, meaning “intersection” or a place between the borders where two entities may meet and transform into something entirely new. That is exactly what happens in their music where the border of hip hop (rap) meets at the edges of jazz. They performed numbers from their recent self-titled album as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Hall on March 27.
The group consists of musicians from the United States and Senegal. Steve Lehman and Maciek Lasserre on saxophones, Damion Reid on percussion, bass player Chris Tordini, keyboardist Carlos Homs, and two rappers, HPrizm and Gaston Bandimic.
Bandimic raps in Wolof, the indigenous language of Senegal, Gambia, and Mauritiana. Wolof, interestingly, is not a tonal language, which means that pitch difference does not convey meaning (unlike, say, Mandarin) thus the rhythmic rush of the language and Bandimic’s rapping may come naturally from the language itself. HPrizm, by contrast, offered slower, more resonating lines, often taking advantage of his two-microphone set up, in which one was set to a high reverb, extending his words in a long echoing resonance.
HPrizm has been active in the experimental hip hop scene for some time, especially with his project, the Antipop Consortium Collective.
Drummer Damion Reid is perhaps best known for his work with the Robert Glasper Trio, the inventive trio that won a Grammy for best R&B album with just such a collaboration between Jazz and Hip Hop. His is a cymbal-centered style, that relies less on big resonating toms or typical snares and more on the variety of metals in his kit. This makes some sense in the context of Sélébéyone for the group tends to rely on robust synthesized sounds for its lower register, laying down big electronic textures to fill out those sub-audible ranges. Reid’s cymbals float above this this bass, producing an astonishing variety of timbres and resonances.
The saxophones created thick constellations of sounds, with long arpeggiated gestures that defy harmonic analysis. Lasserre, on soprano, created sonic depth with swirling motions that moved his horn closer to and further from his microphone. The reverb applied to the instrument gave it even more warmth. Lehman’s alto sax playing is virtuosic and defies easy description. The harmonic density of his solos is breathtaking.
The overall effect of this group is electrifying. On the one hand, the music is mesmerizing, with its thick electronic foundation and eddies of saxophones above it all, with shimmering cymbals and brittle piano above it all. On the other hand, their songs are formal structures with breaks for rappers in two languages. The electronics often use recordings of people, not in English, as a starting point, and it would be interesting to know if the rappers were engaging in ideas presented in hat recorded material. To a non-African listener, the effect is one of general African evocation.
HPrizm, Gaston Bandimic, and Maciek Lasserre all practice Sufism, a mystical branch of Islam which, in Senegal, has coalesced in the Mouride Brotherhood, founded in 1883 by Amadou Bomba, to whose memory the group’s last song was dedicated.
The group has uploaded the first song, “Laamb” on Youtube :
About the Show
with Aruan Ortiz (piano), Fay Victor (vocals), Tomeka Reid (cello), Nicole Mitchell (flutes, composition, electronics)
“That warm dark realness was a doorway between worlds and she visited often. This is where all sound, dreams, and ideas lived. A cloudy dark purple space where forms emerged from formlessness, some familiar, some new. In this space of memory, of future, she found an alignment between those that are remembered and those that are forgotten. They would appear and dissolve into patterns and sometimes plants or caverns. This new awareness, this realm of making, dark maroon cloud, it’s a hidden choice that we all have, but it’s been so lied about and covered up with opaque abuses and accusations. It’s hard to find. In truth, it’s a birthright to our species, perhaps the most important one. A gift directly from the blue marble that we all depend on. And now, like sight, the vision behind one’s closed eyes to the maroon clouds of otherness is a mine of our mind where we can excavate new designs of sound, paper, ink, words, and no one can stop us.” — Nicole M. Mitchell from “What Was Feared Lost”