Day: May 22, 2017

Discover This! 5 Pieces by Hans Otte

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Hans Otte

December 3, 1926 – Plauen, Germany
December 25, 2007 – Bremen, Germany

“Hans Otte was born to musical parents; both were amateur musicians and his mother became his first piano teacher. Already at an early age Otte was recognised as a piano and organ prodigy, which resulted after the Second World War in a grant from the United States to study organ and composition at Yale University. He became a composition student of Paul Hindemith while studying the organ with Fernando Germani at the same time.

Upon returning to Germany, Otte was offered a position as organist of the church of Santa Cecilia in Rome. With that job he would follow in the footsteps of Claudio Monteverdi, but he refused, preferring to refine his piano talents instead. He therefore went on to study piano between 1954 and 1956 in his native country as a student of the pianist Walter Gieseking (1895–1956), especially known for his interpretations of piano works by Debussy and Ravel. Studying the Classical, Romantic and French ‘impressionist’ repertoire with this masterly musician strongly established Otte’s relationship with tradition, while continuing to develop his sense of l’art de toucher le piano and the musical impact of sound colour in general.

In 1959 Otte was offered a job as department head of classical music by Radio Bremen. He was the youngest person the radio station ever employed in that specific function. Otte soon founded two festivals which proved of historical importance: pro musica antiqua, dedicated to Early Music, and pro musica nova. The last-mentioned festival was fully dedicated to ‘New Music’ and became an annual event from 1959 to 1984, during which Otte commissioned and introduced many of the best composers of the twentieth century for the first time in Germany, such as Karlheinz Stockhausen and Olivier Messiaen. Perhaps even more characteristic, however, was Otte’s deep commitment to American music, some of which was hardly known in Europe at that time. It was Otte who brought not only Conlon Nancarrow, Terry Riley, LaMonte Young and Steve Reich to European audiences, but also such diverse musicians as pianist Keith Jarrett, and John Cage with whom he developed a deep artistic and personal friendship. Propagating such a huge diversity of styles by different composers made him fully aware of his own musical personality. Whether it was the emotional effect of minimalism that so much struck him, or the Cagean concepts of sound and silence, or the static, peaceful qualities of music from the East, Otte was amongst the first to fathom the importance of new or unknown art streams.

Hans Otte always kept composing and performing as a pianist, but his striking modesty prevented him from exhibiting himself to the world as a composer. In the latter rôle, Otte created instrumental, vocal and orchestral music, next to the creation of several multimedia installations. Many of his early works, such as Passages (1965) for piano and orchestra or Zero (1972) for choir and orchestra, were initially written in a modernist style. As is already apparent in those works, however, Otte always refused to discard tonality completely, characteristically letting traces of traditional tonality trickle through the otherwise dissonant, serialist textures. – Ralph van Raat” – from Naxos


Discover This! 5 Pieces by Tania León

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Tania León

May 14, 1943 – Havana, Cuba

“Tania León, (b. Havana, Cuba) is highly regarded as a composer and conductor and recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been profiled on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, and independent films.

León’s opera Scourge of Hyacinths, based on a play by Wole Soyinka with staging and design by Robert Wilson, received over 20 performances throughout Europe and Mexico. Commissioned by Hans Werner Henze and the city of Munich for the Fourth Munich Biennale, it took home the coveted BMW Prize. The aria “Oh Yemanja”(“Mother’s Prayer”) was recorded by Dawn Upshaw on her Nonesuch CD, “The World So Wide.”

Commissions include works for Ursula Oppens and the Cassatt Quartet, Nestor Torres, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, Koussevitzky Foundation, Fest der Kontinente (Hamburg, Germany), Cincinnati Symphony, National Endowment for the Arts, NDR Sinfonie Orchester, American Composers Orchestra, The Library of Congress, Ensemble Modern, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others.

Her works have been performed by such orchestras as the Gewaundhausorchester, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the China National Symphony, and the NDR Orchestra. She has collaborated with authors and directors including John Ashbury, Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Jamaica Kincaid, Mark Lamos, Julie Taymor, and Derek Walcott.

León has appeared as guest conductor with the Symphony Orchestra and Chorus of Marseille, the Orquesta Sinfonica de Asturias, L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Orquesta Filarmonica de Bogota, the Gewaundhausorchester, Chamber Orchestra of Geneve, Switzerland, the Guanajuato Symphony Orchestra, Mexico, Symphony Orchestra of Johannesburg, and the WaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra, South Africa, as well as the Orquesta de la Comunidad y Coro de Madrid, and the New York Philharmonic, among others.

She has lectured at Harvard University and at the prestigious Mosse Lecture series at the University of Humboldt in Berlin and was the Andrew Mellon Foundation’s Distinguished Scholar at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. León was also Visiting Professor at Yale University, Guest Composer/Conductor at the Hamburg Musikschule, Germany and the Beijing Central Conservatory, China.

A founding member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, León instituted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Community Concert Series, co-founded the Sonidos de las Américas festivals with the American Composers Orchestra, and is the founder of Composers Now festival in New York City. She also served as Latin American Advisor to the American Composers Orchestra and New Music Advisor to the New York Philharmonic.

León has also received Honorary Doctorate Degrees from Colgate University, Oberlin, and SUNY Purchase College, and has served as U.S. Artistic Ambassador of American Culture in Madrid, Spain. A Professor at Brooklyn College since 1985 and at the Graduate Center of CUNY, she was named Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York in 2006. In 2010 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her honors include the New York Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Symphony Space’s Access to the Arts, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award, and the Fromm, Koussevitzky, and Guggenheim Fellowships. In 2012 she received both a Grammy nomination (for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition”) and a Latin Grammy nomination (for “Best Classical Contemporary Composition”) and in 2013 she was the recipient of the prestigious 2013 ASCAP Victor Herbert Award.” –

5 Questions for Composer Anthony T. Marasco

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Anthony T. Marasco is a composer, sound artist, and instrument builder who takes influence from the aesthetics of today’s Digimodernist culture, exploring the relationships between the eccentric and the every-day, the strict and the indeterminate, the raw and the refined, and the retro and the contemporary. These explorations result in a wide variety of works written for electro-acoustic ensembles, interdisciplinary fixed-media works, interactive computer performance systems, and multimedia installations. An internationally recognized composer, he has received commissions from performers, and institutions such as WIRED Magazine, Phyllis Chen, the American Composers Forum Philadelphia, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Toy Piano Composers, the Rhymes With Opera New Chamber Music Workshop, Data Garden, andPLAY Duo, MakeSh/ft Maker Community, and the soundSCAPE International Composition Exchange. Marasco was the grand-prize winner of the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival’s 2013 Call for Scores, a resident artist at Signal Culture Experimental Media Labs, and a grant winner for the American Composers Forum’s “If You Could Hear These Walls” project. His works have been featured at festivals across the globe, such as the Electroacoustic Barn Dance, New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, Montreal Contemporary Music Lab, the soundSCAPE International Composition and Performance Festivals, and Omaha Under the Radar.

Anthony T. Marasco will join colleagues from across the globe at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival in January 2016 presented by The New Music Conflagration, Inc.

1) How did you first become interested in the toy piano as a concert instrument?
Growing up, I was definitely aware of the toy piano as this kind of hybrid toy/music education tool, but I never really looked into its capabilities as a performance instrument until later in life. It wasn’t until my graduate school days when I started researching more postmodern and American experiential music (particularly the work of John Cage) that I discovered some really strong pieces that used the instrument in a more artistic manner. My first piece for toy piano, Mid-Century Marfa, was written for the 2013 UnCaged Toy Piano Festival Call for Scores and it ended up taking first place and being premiered by Phyllis Chen, so I’m fortunate enough to have had my first experience writing for the instrument be an incredible one!

2) What influenced you to come to the festival?
I’m a big fan of collaboration and the spreading of new ideas and concepts in the new music world, so festivals like this always jump out at me as a great environment to do more of that. I’m currently based in a small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania where the contemporary music scene is, well, often times comprised of just me, so getting to head to new places and meet like-minded artists who want to exhibit and grow their practice is always a fun experience. Plus: 70-degree weather in January and the possibility of hanging out with alligators? I’m there!

3) Who is your favorite toy piano composer and why?
I definitely remember Cage’s Suite for Toy Piano being the first piece for the instrument that I encountered while in graduate school, although my girlfriend Monica Pearce—an excellent toy piano composer in her own right—called out John Williams’ use of a toy piano in the Ewok’s theme music during a rewatch of Return of the Jedi this summer, so I definitely had that as a subliminal influence as a kid without realizing it! One of my favorite contemporary toy piano pieces though is Tristan Perich’s qsqsqsqsqqqqqqqqq, which does an incredible job of blending the unique timbre of three toy pianos with 1-bit electronics.

4) What do you see as the future of toy piano?
For me, I think the future of the toy piano being a featured instrument for contemporary composers is going to also make the use of odd and homemade instruments a very attractive option in new music to come. Bridging the gap between “toy” and “real” instruments has been something that composers in both the electronic and acoustic realms have been tackling for the last few decades, and in the future I’d love to see more composers start to take on the role of becoming instrument builders themselves, developing brand new devices that entire pieces can be centered on and blurring the lines between art and play.

5) What local place or thing are you most excited to experience during your visit to the Tampa Bay Area for the festival?
I haven’t really done much research, but see my answer for question 3 RE: alligators. Seriously, most of my luggage is just going to be bags of marshmallows.


5 Questions for Composer Rob Smith

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The innovative and highly energetic music of Rob Smith is frequently performed throughout the United States and abroad. His music has received numerous awards, including those from the Aaron Copland House, ASCAP and the National Band Association. He has received commissions from the Texas Music Festival Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program, the American Composers Forum, and several nationally renowned university wind ensembles, among many others. A wide variety of ensembles have performed his music, including the Ethel and Enso string quartets, Soli Chamber Ensemble, American Modern Ensemble, New World Symphony Percussion Consort, Singapore Wind Symphony Percussion Ensemble, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Standing Wave Chamber Ensemble (Canada) and the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra.

In 1997, he was the recipient of a Fulbright Grant to Australia, which led to a teaching position at the University of Wollongong in 1998. Commercial recordings of his music are available by the Society for New Music (Syracuse, NY), Rutgers University Wind Ensemble, saxophonist Jeremy Justeson, Austrian toy pianist Isabel Ettenauer, and the University of Houston and Texas Christian University Percussion Ensembles.

Currently, he teaches at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music where he is Associate Professor of Music Composition and director of the AURA Contemporary Ensemble. From 2003-2014 he served as one of the artistic directors of Musiqa, a Houston-based contemporary chamber ensemble. Currently, he teaches at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music where he is Associate Professor of Music Composition and director of the AURA Contemporary Ensemble. Boosey & Hawkes, Carl Fischer, Southern Music, C-Alan Publications, and Skitter Music Publications publish his music.

Rob Smith will join colleagues from across the globe at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival in January 2016 presented by The New Music Conflagration, Inc.

1) How did you first become interested in the toy piano as a concert instrument?
I was commissioned by Isabel Ettenauer, an Austrian toy pianist.

2) What influenced you to come to the festival?
Since purchasing a toy piano so my toy piano works could be performed in Houston, I have programmed a number of works for toy piano with my ensemble, and I am always looking for more.

3) Who is your favorite toy piano composer and why?
I don’t have a favorite, but I particularly admire the terrific, idiomatic works Stephen Montague, HyeKyung Lee, Joe Cutler and Karlheinz Essl have written for the toy piano. 

4) What do you see as the future of toy piano?
In the last 20 years the toy piano repertoire has grown exponentially, and I feel it will continue to grow as a solo instrument, in chamber ensembles and with electronics.

5) What local place or thing are you most excited to experience during your visit to the Tampa Bay Area for the festival?
The Tampa Museum of Art – I am a big fan of contemporary art!


Discover This: 5 Pieces by Rodion Shchedrin

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Rodion Konstantinovich Shchedrin (b. 1932) is one of the most recognizable Russian composers of concert music today. Shchedrin has a diverse and prolific compositional output including: operas, musicals, ballets, symphonies, concertos, chorus, solo voice, solo piano works, solo instrument as well as chamber ensemble. While Shchedrin is highly celebrated in his homeland, his works aren’t as well known to us in the west. Below we have compiled a playlist of works to introduce you to Shchedrin’s signature sound:

1) Cello Concerto, “Sotto Voce” for cello and orchestra in four parts (1994)
2) Self Portrait, variations for orchestra (1984)
3) Concerto for Orchestra #5 – “4 Russian Songs” for orchestra (1998)
4) 4 Pieces from The Humpbacked Horse for piano (1952-1961)
5) Carmen Suite (after G. Bizet) for ballet orchestra (1967)

What are sick days? I’m a working artist.

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Sick days are difficult for anyone with a job in modern America, but for a working artist they can quickly turn into a mire of frustration that rages against actual healing. As an independent artist one wears many hats: creative director, manager, booking agent, coach, engineer, distributor, website developer, social media, editor, public relations, accountant, secretary, and those are just to name a few. Essentially, the independent artist is like a small company with 17 employees punching the clock as long as the artist is awake. Now imagine if a whole company shut down for several days. Imagine the backlog of work that would quickly pile up like a cartoonish mound of unattended mail. This is the reality of the “sick day” for a working artist.

It’s absolutely terrifying and frustrating. It breeds a double conflict. On the one hand, the artist is pining to create and practice their craft, with an ever-present feeling that each moment away from their medium is a step backwards in artistry as well as technical proficiency. On the other hand, there’s a crud-ton of administrative work that is necessary to propel the artist’s work into society. Reality, with it’s fearsome dark countenance looming over time, perpetuates a feeling of mortality which makes the “catch-up work” seem virtually impossible.

If you are sick for an extended period of time the obstacle of “loosing traction” in the public becomes a real and present danger. The Internet has created a situation in which it is easy for people to forget or lose interest in something that goes dormant. In this disposable culture, the work to regain a following after a long hiatus can feel a great deal like the beginning of an artistic career where one in a relative unknown.

Is there any way to avoid these frustrations? Not particularly. I would say that feeling a little frustrated is completely normal but what’s most important is to not allow one’s self to get caught up in a cycle of frustration that inhibits productivity. Some helpful advice for the sick:

Rest is important.
In order for your body to heal or fight a nasty flu bug, you must physically rest. This is an amazing opportunity to also allow your mind to rest. Set your phone down, stay off the computer… and just sleep.

You are human.
Unless you are another refuge from the planet Krypton, you are mortal and nobody expects you to operate at 3000% for your whole life. SIT DOWN SUPER ARTIST!!!!!!!

Many artists, especially musicians, teach privately in order to create some sort of stable income. Some artists work on a commission basis… Deadlines and parents and students are an inevitability, however, if you are running a fever or contagious please notify the appropriate entities! There’s no sense in spreading disease to your students! As for deadlines, communicate with your collaborators or clients as soon as the disease becomes mad intense. You could overwork yourself (still not feeling quite satisfied with your work product) and go to the hospital for twice the price of your commission or you could get a great project in with an adjustment made for your illness. Generally, people are willing to work with you if you are timely, open and honest about situations as they occur.

Do not overlook the significance of your symptoms.
As an artist, your body is integral to actually doing your job. Overlooking a continued muscle strain or worse yet, shooting pain could quickly end your career. In order to give a truly satisfying performance, you need to be healthy; which means you MUST LISTEN TO YOUR BODY and seek the assistance of a professional doctor (Eastern or Western Medicine) when something feels wrong.

Every artist has been in your shoes, in some way.
Every artist has experienced illness, which altered his or her workflow temporarily. Don’t bother beating yourself up because of what you are missing! Often you will find that time spent away from your art brings a fresh perspective to your music, visuals, performance, etc.

As a final common sense notice to EVERYBODY…