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TAK Ensemble Releases "Oor," Featuring Erin Gee & Ann Cleare

Over the past six years, New York's TAK Ensemble has emerged as a unique ensemble in contemporary music: the quintet has already released two albums, collaborating with composers Taylor Brook and Mario Diaz de Leon, which show the ensemble's dedication to working directly with composers and artists to create new work. Now TAK has launched their own record label, TAK Editions, and will release their third album—Oor—featuring works by PSNY composers Erin Gee and Ann Cleare, in addition to works by Tyshawn Sorey, Ashkan Behdazi, David Bird, and Natacha Diels. 

Erin Gee's Mouthpiece 28, included on the album, was premiered by TAK in 2016, and here sees a pristine studio recording that captures every minute sound of vocalist Charlotte Mundy's voice, turned into a non-semantic instrument complimeted by bass flute, bass clarinet, violin, and percussion. Oor also features a recording of Ann Cleare's unable to create an offscreen world (c), which explores "ideas of wrongness, incompatibility, and inability with ferocious streams of energy, confidence and hope."

TAK writes: 

The album is called Oor (roughly translating to naked) because these works, to us, share a sense of raw openness, unvarnished emotion, and urgency. This visceral collection of pieces, primarily written for the ensemble, highlights fierce virtuosity, uncanny blends, and otherworldly timbral landscapes.

Preview the album at I Care If You Listen or TAK's Bandcamp page, and if you're in New York, be sure to check out their album release event on May 18th.

Ann Cleare Wins Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation Composers' Prize

Ann Cleare has won a 2019 Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation Composers' Prize—one of the most prestigious and significant awards in music, and the first Siemens Foundation prize to be awarded to an Irish composer. On June 7th, Cleare will recieve the award, alongside fellow awardees Annesley Black and Mithatcan Öcal, at a ceremony that will also include screenings of short films about all three composers, as well as a performance of Cleare's chamber ensemble work, on magnetic fields. The award also includes a portrait album on the Viennese label KAIROS, to be released later in 2019.

The musicologist Gascia Ouzounian has written an essay on Cleare's works, including her ensemble work on magnetic fields (2011-2012), her string quartet Moil (2010), and I Am Not a Clockmaker Either (2009), for accordion and electronics. Ouzounian asks:

is it music at all? Or is it something else, an altogether different artform that draws from musical traditions, but pushes against and beyond them, articulating something that is at once about sound, but that is equally concerned with energy, motion, space – and the world itself?

Scott Wollschleger's "American Dream"

What is an American dream? Blue skies, the open road, a sense of freedom, optimism for the future? Those are the objects of desire in so many American narratives; but in a dream, the valence of those objects, their interrelation, is radically called into question. Indeed, we might ask: what is an American dream—what is the American dream—in 2019? What can it tell us about ourselves? What makes a dream different from reality? Or: how are the two alike?

Scott Wollschleger's  forthcoming album on Canteloupe Music, American Dream, is a recording of that eponymous work along with two related pieces, performed by Bearthoven (Karl Larson, piano; Pat Swoboda, double bass; Matt Evans, percussion). Wollschleger began composing the piece in the winter of 2017, responding directly to the political upheavals of the previous November; he felt, he says, like he was suddenly and violently removed from the bubble in which he was living. Responding to that adjustment, he turned to abstraction: pitch pipes became the goofy, campy, cheap representation of national politics; in his studio, Wollschleger explored the piano, bass and a variety of percussion instruments to notate the feelings of political abjection, expressed in cinematic, short sections, each flashing like a semi-conscious aural dream.

Part of the affective power of American Dream is that its affect is radically undefined: is it mournful? Hopeful? What do its repetitions mean? What does it mean to be embraced by a strange new world of pitch and timbre, only for it to immediately evaporate and re-appear in slightly altered form? 

American Dream is book-ended by Gas Station Canon Song and We See Things That Are Not There, two works that emerged from the compositional material of American Dream. In this sense, this is at once a work and a kind of "concept album:" the album art, beautifully created by photographer Jamie Boddorf and designer Mariah Tarvainen, evokes the blues and oranges of the American Dream, the horizon that signals both beginning and end. 

As Wollschleger's frequent collaborator Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti writes, 

Is it a love song? A mis-remembered nostalgic anthem? A quiet, hopeful fanfare? A frightened obsessive meandering? In allowing ourselves to be truly vulnerable we can connect with each other, even if only for a moment. Or perhaps we see things that are not there.

American Dream will be released on February 8th, and will be celebrated with an album release performance at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York. Preview the first movement of this work below:

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