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Posts tagged 'Chicago'

Party with Ensemble Dal Niente

On a blustery Chicago night, over a hundred people packed into the Jackson Junge Gallery in Wicker Park to attend a party—typical for an art opening on a Saturday night. But in addition to the art, food, beer, and craft cocktails, these partiers got to experience something extra: Ensemble Dal Niente, one of Chicago and the US' leading New Music ensembles, performing over 15 works, many of which were composed in the past decade.

The ensemble, conducted by Michael Lewanski, split the evening's performances into sets of two to three works, allowing for conversation, commentary, and mingling with the musicians in-between. From solo works to pieces for larger ensembles, Dal Niente executed each piece with precision and grace—from technically demanding pieces such as Ted Hearne's Crispy Gentlemen or Ashley Fure's something to hunt to simpler but more theoretically complex works such as Johannes Kreidler's Stil 1f. Beat Furrer's Aria, Alex Mincek's Nucleus, and Thomas Ades' Traced Overhead were standouts in a concert that the Chicago Classical Review called 'exhilarating' and 'wide-ranging'.

Check out a video preview for the Party below: 

Welcome, Marcos Balter, To PSNY!

Marcos Balter seems to be everywhere these days: based in Chicago, in the past year he's composed new works for ICE, Dal Niente, the ACO, yMusic, Nadia Sirota, Ryan Muncy, Claire Chase, and has appeared in venues from New York to Curitiba, Brazil. One could say, without exaggeration, that he's one of the hardest working people in new music, a true collaborator who works with ensembles and perfomers to compose chamber works with his unmistakable voice, which is at once intricately emotional and intrinsically complex. 

In a compositional lineage ranging from Chopin to Sciarrino, Balter's compositions work on numerous levels, engaging listeners with immediate, visceral emotion, but also on a deeper level, with an embedded structure that rewards contemplation and deep listening. One such work is Ignis Fatuus, for solo violin, composed in 2008 for the Holland/America Music Society International Violin Competition. A meditation on timbre, the sonic qualities of the violin, and the paradox of polyphony on a monophonic instrument, this work draws the listener into its sound-world while expanding the boundaries of its own sonic possibilities. 

And yet Ignis Fatuus also uses Paganini's Caprice No. 6 as source material, linking the instrument with the diatonic trace of its inherent history. At once immediately acessable, the deep structure and historicity contained within Balter's work makes it a transcendent experience for both listener and performer. 

Another such work is delete/control/option, for alto flute and cello. Balter's collaborative mode of composition comes to the fore: the piece is as much composed by the performers as the composer, as they physically embody the taxing demands of the written score, which acts not as the "ur-text" of the composition, but rather as tablature for performance. Using the language of computer commands, this work is as much about syntax as it is the transcendance of syntax: the real, affective language that is translated, modified, and encoded by re-presentation.  

Balter's textural language shines in this piece, blending the timbres of alto flute and cello to create an emergent, organic body, re-imagining his compositional voice through the projected voice of the chamber ensemble. This effect is even more present in his work for saxophone quartet, Intercepting a Shivery Light, premiered by the Anubis Saxophone Quartet in 2012. In this work, the quartet is rendered as a single voice, with the appearance of Ligeti-like micropolyphony and timbral transformations. Again, the score acts as tablature for live, embodied performance: these visceral effects emerge from embodiment, again projecting a spectral, single voice into the polyphony of the quartet. And, like in Ignis Fatuus, the piece works on two (or more) levels: the immediate affective response is transformed when the listener learns that the title of the piece is an anagram of Radiohead's "Everything in its Right Place."   

From the colors in Balter's head to the tone-colors of the composition, this piece works on a wordless, affective level, creating a texture in the saxophone quartet approaching that of a modular synthesizer, granular in its machinations of sound. There's no wonder why Balter is such an in-demand composer: his works are an ecstatic embodiment of the possibilities of instruments and their players, written with performance in mind. We're thrilled to make these works available to the public through PSNY, and look forward to more in the future!  

 

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