A weekly tally of memorable things Steve Smith has stuck in his ears.
Spotify jukebox does not correspond precisely with the selections listed, but maintains the playlist’s continuity and personality.
Jürg Frey – Collection Gustave Roud (Another Timbre; 2017)
> Paysage pour Gustave Roud – Jürg Frey, Stefan Thut, Dante Boon; Haut-Jorat – Andrew McIntosh, Jürg Frey, Dante Boon; La présence, les silences – Dante Boon; Farblose Wolken, Glück, Wind – Regula Konrad, Stephen Altoft, Stefan Thut, Lee Ferguson; Ombre si fragile – Andrew McIntosh, Stefan Thut, Dante Boon
Simply an exquisite collection of poised, contemplative pieces, all of it inspired by a Swiss poet who, in Frey’s words, “perceived existential dimensions in the finest nuances of the weather, the landscape and its inhabitants, and made it the basis of his work.”
Grażyna Bacewicz – Violin Concertos Nos. 1, 3 & 7 – Joanna Kurkowicz, Krakow Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra/Lukasz Borowicz (Chandos)
On Dec. 7, the American Symphony Orchestra will present a concert at Alice Tully Hall that will feature two pieces by the Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz, including the Violin Concerto No. 7. Whether you can attend or not, it’s always worth investigating what Leon Botstein programs.
Chaya Czernowin – Hidden (Wergo; digital 2017, physical Jan. 10, 2018)
> Adiantum Capillus Veneris – Inbal Hever; Hidden – JACK Quartet
Two disparate yet equally spellbinding recent works by this consistently potent Israeli-American composer: a breathy soliloquy for amplified voice, and an evocative aural landscape for string quartet and electronics. (I reviewed a concert performance of the latter piece for the Boston Globe; you can read it here.)
Charlemagne Palestine – STTT THOMASSS ‘’’’”‘”DINGGGDONGGGDINGGGzzzzzzz ferrrr TONYYY’’’’’’’’ (Blank Forms; 2017)
Before he gained renown as the most ecstatic of the early minimalists, Charlemagne Palestine served as carillonneur at Saint Thomas Church in midtown Manhattan. In March Palestine returned to those bells to ring out a celebration of his friend and colleague Tony Conrad, who would have turned 77 that day; now, Blank Forms, the presenter that mounted the event, has released the music on a limited-edition cassette.
Alvin Lucier – Illuminated by the Moon (ZHdK; 2017)
> I Am Sitting in a Room – Alvin Lucier; Music for Solo Performer – Alvin Lucier; Charles Curtis – Charles Curtis; Double Rainbow – Joan La Barbara; Nothing Is Real (Strawberry Fields Forever) – Johannes Herrmann; Braid – ensemble/Felix Protos; Two Circles – ensemble/Felix Protos; Hanover – Ever Present Orchestra/Lars Mlekusch; Step, Slide and Sustain – Trio Retro Disco; One Arm Bandits – Charles Curtis, TJ Borden, Judith Hamann, Reynard Rott
This gorgeous boxed set of four LPs, a CD, and a substantial book features recordings made during a 85th birthday celebration for the trailblazing American composer Alvin Lucier, presented in 2016 by the Zürcher Hochschule der Kunste in Zurich, Switzerland, and featuring works that span much of Lucier’s creative life – including his newest pieces. Extraordinary.
Áine O’Dwyer – Beast Diaries (self-released; 2017)
Alongside Gallarais, her splendidly disorienting new LP, the Irish singer, harpist, and organist Áine O’Dwyer issued this scrappy D.I.Y. release, featuring guerrilla organ performances in Australia and New Zealand. It’s available in two forms: as an extremely limited-edition handmade version on CD-R, and as a free download.
Henry Flynt – You Are My Everlovin’ (Recorded; 1981)
Like Palestine above, a singular instance of minimalism at a considerable remove from the conventional notion of that term… rootsy raga for fiddle and tambura. Flynt will perform this piece live, accompanied by Catherine Christer Hennix on a Pandit Pran Nath tambura, on Dec. 12 at Experimental Intermedia, Phil Niblock’s outlier haven in downtown Manhattan.
Duke Ellington – Ellington at Newport 1956 (Complete) (Columbia/Legacy; 1999)
The legendary performance that restored Ellington to the spotlight after the swing era waned, restored to full length. Played this week in memory of its estimable producer, the late George Avakian. (If you don’t know who Avakian was, read this.)
XTC – English Settlement (Virgin; 1982/2001)
Sometimes you just want to hear a song. In this case it was the obvious one, “Senses Working Overtime.”
Sarah Hennies – Work (Quakebasket; 2014)
Meridian – Tuyeres (Caduc.; 2015)
Bryan Eubanks – Object IV – Andrew Lafkas, Rebecca Lane, Catherine Lamb, Bryan Eubanks (SoundCloud; 2016)
Two discs featuring percussionist and composer Sarah Hennies, spun in advance of her premiere at Issue Project Room on Nov. 30, plus a recording posted to SoundCloud by Bryan Eubanks, who shared that Issue bill with a strong premiere of his own featuring Catherine Lamb on viola.
Haptic – ten years under the earth (Unfathomless; 2017)
Banks Bailey – The Pool (Unfathomless; 2017)
The two newest releases from Unfathomless, a wonderful Belgian label that releases handsomely designed limited-edition CD-Rs (and limitless downloads), of sounds that can be described, over-simplistically, as “field recordings plus complementary electronic treatments.” Jump in here, or literally anywhere in the series.
Coppice – Open on Occluded Conditions (Untitled Folder; 2017)
Billy Gomberg – A Changed Meaning (Strange Rules; 2017)
Derek Rogers & Steve Flato – Helicopter Rides (self-released; 2017)
Vinny Golia – Syncquistic Linear Explorations and their Geopolitical Outcomes (...we are all still here) (Nine Winds; 2017)
Bandcamp is a brilliant and at times dangerous rabbit hole for those who opt to embrace the social-network functions of maintaining a collection open to public view, and following others who’ve done the same: you get endless recommendations from other listeners whose taste you’ve come to trust. (For instance, I don’t know Robert Bresnan personally, but many are the days when I look at his new acquisitions and wonder if we aren’t old friends who simply haven’t met.) These four examples are artists who interested me already—but I learned about these releases, sequentially, through the Bandcamp feed.
Jakko – Are My Ears on Wrong? (Resurgence; 1983-87/1995)
My present fixation with the solo works of current King Crimson vocalist Jakko Jakszyk continues with this lovely little anthology features smart pop songs Jakszyk recorded for his second and third albums; in both cases, the label collapsed before the record came out. (Essentially the same fate befell his debut, Silesia, which appeared in a few countries but not his native England… since this CD isn’t on Spotify, you’ll hear something from Silesia in the jukebox embedded above.)
Daniel Corral – Refractions – Daniel Corral, Jeremy Kerner, Isaura String Quartet (Populist; 2017)
A sublime study in anxious stasis and fleeting repose for string quartet, electric guitar, music box, and digital treatments by Corral, an Alaskan-born composer situated close to the epicenter of the burgeoning Los Angeles new-music scene.
Mark Adamo – Little Women – Stephanie Novacek, Margaret Lloyd, Stacey Tappan, Joyce DiDonato, Chad Shelton, Houston Grand Opera/Patrick Summers (Ondine; 2001)
Preparing to interview Mark Adamo on the National Sawdust stage on Dec. 2 was a welcome excuse to return to this, one of the great modern American operas—and arguably the modern American opera that turned the tide in favor of repeat performances and multiple productions of new works.
Jennifer Higdon – Viola Concerto; Oboe Concerto; All Things Majestic – Roberto Diaz, James Button, Nashville Symphony Orchestra/Giancarlo Guerrero (Naxos; 2017)
As usual, the Grammy nominations this year largely left me scratching my head. Still, it’s always satisfying to see Jennifer Higdon’s beautifully constructed, emotionally involving orchestral works held up for praise.