Notes From Underground

Then I should have chosen a career for myself, I should have been a sluggard and a glutton, not a simple one, but, for instance, one with sympathies for everything sublime and beautiful.

The new disc from Henry Threadgill and Zooid is out this week, give it a first listen at NPR. Call it jazz, blues, rock, R&B, it’s great, modern music.

Destination: OUT, one of the most important jazz sites on the inter-tubes, is six years old, and they’ve refreshed their raison d’être, their “Beginner’s Guide to Free Jazz.” Words and music and ideas, check them out.

The big show this week is the New York Philharmonic in a 360 degree setting at the Park Avenue Armory, where they will be playing music that makes use of space: Mozart, Ives, Boulez and Stockhausen’s fearsome Grüppen. If you want to experience it but can’t attend, Q2 Music will stream the audio on selected dates in July, and my friends at medici.tv will offer a free webcast of the event, starting July 6.

The great contemporary composer, Henri Dutilleaux, won the inaugural Kravis Prize from the NY Phil, and has done a great thing by sharing the proceeds with Franck Krawcyz, Peter Eötös and the Talea Ensemble’s Anthony Cheung, asking each to write a new work. And Sean Shepherd, with whom I share an enthusiasm for Lutoslawski, is the deserving Emerging Composer for the new season. The Philharmonic currently has an emotionally committed but intellectually ambivalent relationship with new music, and this moves the head closer to the heart.

And speaking of the Talea Ensemble, their recording of music by Fausto Romitelli is out next month, and I’m anticipating this as one of the best releases this year. Save your pennies for it, especially by skipping the Fiona Apple’s over-hyped and disappointing new record.

John Zorn frequently frustrates me, but I do dig his Moonchild band, and Phil Freeman’s review has me wanting the new one, and may have you wanting it too.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?lt1=_blank&bc1=000000&IS2=1&bg1=FFFFFF&fc1=000000&lc1=0000FF&t=thbicibl-20&o=1&p=8&l=as4&m=amazon&f=ifr&ref=ss_til&asins=B007WB5CPS Bill Britelle’s Loving the Chambered Nautilus is out on disc copy, dig the title track here (free download), and dig him, Tune-Yards and The Yehudim this Saturday, for free, at the World Financial Center.

Last year, the Dallas Symphony premiered Steven Stucky’s Aufust 4, 1964, and their recording is out now.

As an addendum to my posting on Debussy, Onyx is releasing Pascal Rogé’s collected recordings on July 10.

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Maverick Media

American Mavericks is in full swing here in New York City. I have some mixed feelings about Monday’s San Francisco Symphony concert — I’m not sure what John Adams was thinking when he made Absolute Jest, and it’s hard to square Jessye Norman’s substantial career with a performance of John Cage’s Song Books — the audiences have come out, and the orchestra continues to impress me as the finest in the country. The precision, blend and weight of their sound in Ameriques was astonishing. The Tuesday program was one of the great events of the year, with Carl Ruggle’s Sun-Treader, Morton Feldman’s Piano and Orchestra and Henry Brant’s orchestration of Ives’ Concord Sonata. From weighty, dissonant Neo-Romanticism to spacious, still, delicate pointillism and the polyphonic riot of Ives, played with such musical expression — there’s no other orchestra that can do this. Top flight groups like this play the classics beautifully, but Tilson Thomas, his imagination, curiosity and his knowledge and understanding of the range of musical concepts means that a program like this not only works, but astonishes. Sun-Treader is a great work, and has been recorded exactly two times, both under this conductor’s baton. This group also made a tremendous recording the of Ives last year, and I have never heard a finer performance of the Feldman piece, with Emmanuel Ax at the keyboard, hauntingly shadowed by Robin Sutherland. When an orchestra can play the quietest sounds with a exactitude of attack and pitch and fullness of sound like this, the silent spaces in between grow broader, deeper, more profound. Rare playing and a truly rare program, all of us in the hall may never hear these pieces again in concert.

San Francisco is one of the pioneers in matching their content (their programming and playing) with digital media (their own record label, the Keeping Score program), and this festival has lots of extras for those who can attend and even for those who can’t. Go to Q2 for archived audio, check out the above documentary or one about MTT’s grandparents, who were leaders in Yiddish theater, and, if you’re patient, wait a few months, because the orchestral concerts are being recorded for release on the SFS Media label, meaning brilliant, beautiful discs of Adams, Ruggles, Cowell and more.

Adventures in Radio

Listen to Poland, a country with an extraordinary musical heritage (and that would hold true if the only composers who came from there were Chopin and Lutoslawski). Starting January 16 and running through January 22, Q2, the online radio arm of WQXR, is featuring music from Poland: Muzyka Nowa.

Heavy on 20th century music, the highlights will include the broadcast of last November’s Gorecki Memorial concert from Le Poisson Rouge, and excerpts from the UNSOUND festival, an annual exploration of the boundaries of contemporary acoustic and electronic music. Tune in for some aural armchair traveling.