Friday, October 23, 2009

October 25, 2009 PROGRAM

Program October 25, 2009

Octet Tim AuBuchon
1. Old and New
2. Dark Window
3. Little Guy
4. Pink Fedora
5. The Dirge
6. Personal Multipalities

Marc Landes, trumpet
Mitch Paliga, alto and soprano sax
Tim AuBuchon, tenor sax
Steve Schnall, bari sax and bass clarinet
Ryan Shultz, bass trumpet
Jeff Kowalkowski, piano
Dave Smith, bass
Doug Bratt, drums

Sonata for Flute and Piano Tom Stevens
Laura Koeple-Tenges, flute
Tom Stevens, piano

little rootee tootee (after Thelonius Monk) Frank Abbinanti
Frank Abbinanti, piano

the time inside a year David McDonnell
Jason Adasiewicz, vibraphone
Jeff Kowalkowski, piano

Chris and Nancy Lemons Chris Lemons

Olivia Marita Bolles
Blake Taylor, percussion

Gimlet Eye Julia Miller
Julian Berke, keyboards
NIck Alvarez, drums
Julia Miller, guitar

Vibraphone Journal (excerpts) Eric Roth
Katie Wiegman, vibraphone
{Improvisation} lead by: Jason Adasciewicz/Dave McDonnell

Octet--Tim AuBuchon
I have wanted to write for a jazz group of this size for several years. The idea started right before I left Chicago to take a teaching position at Truman State University in Kirksville, MO in the fall of 2002. Since then, the demands of a full-time job and my growing family (three kids, currently 6, 4, and 1 ½ ) have kept the octet plans on hold. I was very fortunate in the spring of 2009 to receive a Truman Faculty Summer Research Fellowship, which allowed me to study with noted jazz composer Joey Sellers for a week this past July. Much of the writing for this project was completed during that week.
In working on the octet music, I generally wanted to avoid the usual melody/solos/melody format and instead attempted to develop longer forms. Improvisation is very important to me, so rather that just write more material, I tried to integrate the improvised solos and written material in a way that would still allow the musicians to stretch out and shape the music. To varying degrees, you may hear the influence of Ornette Coleman, Dave Douglas, Ben Allison, and Thelonious Monk.

Sonata for Flute and Piano--Tom Stevens

little rootee tootee (after Thelonius Monk)--Frank Abbinanti
I've studied composition with Richard Teitelbaum, Ralph Shpaey and Ben Johnston. I've been active on the new music scene since 1983. I don't get many commissions anymore but when I did I had opportunities to write for large orchestras and chamber groups, as the Chicago Chamber Orchestra, Chicago Pro Musica, Harper Symphony, New Valley Symphony, Asusa Pacifica Orchestra, Trio Hernadi, and AMM. Now I'm putting into final form three chamber concerti called "power clowns", one for English Horn, another for Contrabass and another for Bb Clarinet;and also piano solos,"Deep South" "African Kinderszenen" for prepared piano; duets, and chamber pieces, a piano concerto "Mudmarch" and pieces for orchestra as "femmes de la revolucion". I'm also journal Editor for Contemporary Music Review (England), one devoted to Frederic Rzewski. This will be published in a year or so.
The challenge in playing Monk's music for piano solo is that you simply cannot play what you like, when you like, and not all his pieces are doable as a piano solo, so I'm thrilled whenever I can add a new tune. I've reached the ends of the fruitful lands now, I play everything there is to play of Monk as a piano solo, and "little rootee tootee" is a less serious,more playful etude-piece than say "Bright Mississippi",or "Crepuscule with Nellie" where thoughts of exodus and lifeworld are part of what the music says.

the time inside a year--David McDonnell
This duo is an expansion of the concepts used in a computer piece called Song of Overtones, in which I attempted to combine the compositional approaches of Charles Wuorinen and Tristan Murail. In fact much of the form, notes and rhythms are taken from that piece, but adapted both for the instruments themselves and human capability. The concept behind the title refers to the technique I used to generate the formal and rhythmic attributes of the piece: using the series of notes which form the melodic backbone of the music, taking the proportions inherent in that series and using those to determine the formal and rhythmic aspects of the music. As I was writing the music however, certain parts seemed as if they needed to be expanded within the already finite form of the music. This reminded me of the way memory can perceive a finite block of time as having parts within that are disproportionally longer in relation to other parts. It also recalled to me the replicant character Rutger Hauer plays in Phillip K. Dick's Blade Runner and the speech he gives at the end of the movie about the passing of time and memory.
David McDonnell received his Bachelor of Music in Composition from De Paul University. He plays saxophone, keyboards and electric bass. He spent most of his 20's playing in avant-rock and jazz ensembles such as Bablicon, Michael Columbia, Icy Demons, Need New Body, Herculaneum and The Hats. Music by these groups, excepting The Hats, can be found on the Misra label, Chicago's 482 and Alabaster labels and Europe's Clean Feed, Leaf and Pickled Egg labels. David's solo project, "the diminisher", was put out by Portland Oregon's Unsound Records in 2006. He completed his Masters in Composition at De Paul in 2009, and is currently pursuing a DMA in composition at the College Conservatory of Music at University of Cincinnati. While continuing activities on the Chicago scene, he lives in Cincinnati with his wife and dog; they help him write his music.

Chris and Nancy Lemons--Chris Lemons

Olivia--Marita Bolles
Marita Bolles is a Chicago-based composer whose music has been commissioned and performed internationally by performers who share a commitment to newly composed and experimental music. She completed her undergraduate at the University of MIchigan, and received her MA and PhD from the University of California, San Diego where she studied with Roger Reynolds. She is recently back from residencies at Ragdale and Yaddo where she completed a commission for the St. Paul-based new music ensemble Zeitgeist. Future projects include the production of objects de la musique--sound objects that incorporate her original music into interactive environments (books, boxes, etc.); she is currently designing a prototype of these objects with funds from the Chicago Artists Assistance Program. Her music is available on itunes.
Olivia is a percussion solo underwritten by the American Composers Forum with funds from the Jerome Foundation. It was composed percussionist Patti Cudd and is the first in a series of five pieces belonging to the suite Cities and Signs, inspired by Italo Calvino's book Invisible Cities. The score is notated in a way that has an increasingly open architecture, therefore each interpretation by a percussionist is unique and beyond the usual expectations of the performer's interpretive voice.

Gimlet Eye--Julia Miller

Vibraphone Journal--Eric Roth

Monday, August 24, 2009

Program for Upcoming Concert! Sunday, October 25

Sunday, October 25, 2009

[durations approximate]

Tim Aubuchon--Octet [45']
Tom Stevens "Sonata for Flute & Piano" [11' ]
Frank Abbinanti "little rootee tootee" (after Thelonius Monk) [10']

Dave McDonnell--The Time Inside a Year [10']
Chris and Nancy Lemons--[10']
Marita Bolles--Olivia [10']
Julia Miller--[10']

Eric Roth--Vibraphone Journal
Open Improvisation...

Laura Koepele-Tenges, flute
Tom Stevens, piano
Nancy Lemons, piano
Chris Lemons, guitar
Katie Wiegman, vibraphone
Blake Taylor, percussion
Mark Landes, trumpet
Mitch Paliga, alto and soprano sax
Tim AuBuchon, tenor sax
Steve Schnall, bari sax and bass clarinet
Ryan Shultz, bass trumpet
Doug Bratt, drums
Jeff Kowalkowski, piano
Dave Smith, bass
Eric Roth, voice and/or percussion
Dave McDonnell, sax, etc.
Jason Adasiewicz, vibraphone, etc.

Jeff K: 10 ? for Charles Lipp

"Generate as much music as you can and discard what you dislike."---Debussy

1. Were you trained traditionally in music?
Traditional academic training leading to a doctorate in composition from the University of Illinois, Urbana and Fulbright Fellowship in Poland. Formative experiences: composition studies with Brun and Martirano (Urbana), Schaeffer and Lutoslawski (Poland).

2. When did you first compose a piece of music? What is your earliest opus?
In high school, composed pieces for jazz band (now lost). Pieces for Bassoon (1970).

3. When did you first use computers for composing music?
About ten years ago I used Finale to prepare a score and parts for a chamber piece.

4. Who are the living composers (both in Chicago and abroad) that you feel deserve attention? Marek Choloniewski in Krakow, Poland, is relatively unknown in the United States. See a video of one of his pieces at

5. What is good and bad about the new music scene here in Chicago?
It's large enough and varied enough to be called Good. Interaction between groups and collective promotion would be less Bad than the ever-present self-promotion.

6a. What is your opinion about the intersection of political ideas and new music?
Music and political ideas must intersect since they take place in the same social sphere, but it's beyond the analytical powers of sociologists and anthropologists to make definitive statements about this intersection. Philosophers draw conclusions that are more or less convincing depending on their presentation skills.

6b. Do you think it is futile for composers to be socially engaged?
No more or less futile than the social engagement of any other worker.

6c. Do you consider your work to be political in any way?
No more or less than the product of any other worker.

7. Describe your compositional process at the current time.
"Generate as much music as you can and discard what you dislike."---Debussy

8. What is your prediction for the use of computers in the future of music?
As computing power increases, the likelihood of generating good music increases and the likelihood of generating bad music increases.

9. If you had to pick one work, or collection of works by a single composer to bring with you to a desert island, what would it be?
Beethoven last quartets.

10. What is your advice to young composers studying today, what do they absolutely need to know?
When composing, follow your Plan A. When generating financial security, follow Plan B.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jeff K: "10 ? for Abbinanti

"A composer is like a social scientist, a research person, a philosopher of people, of life." --Frank A.

1. What is your training?
My parents were Big Band Era people, Frank Sinatra and went to all of the shows in Chicago to escape as at The Aragon Ballroom, appreciated popular and light classics music and the skill of playing a brass instrument. My parents always encouraged me to study music, but wanted me to be a lawyer, but I was too stupid for that.
So I began very early with the study of the trombone, 1957-58. By the time I got to high school I knew the scores of Stravinsky, Varese, not well, yet always liked popular music; I much preferred Frank Zappa to the Beatles, who I thought had a element of fakery in them; if that tells you anything, but the very concept of the music remains with me even today.
Then I did theory, harmony while in high school, and went to Chicago Symphony concerts in 1965-66. It was not until I studied with Frank Crisafulli, trombone that formal classical training began. Yes I learned more about humanity from him than music.
Music can always be taught, but respect for humanity is more difficult, look at the Middle East today, who respects whom there? Gaza is a permanent prison. He was a wonderful person; quite dignified, respectful of whom you were, when and how. Saw your sensibility right through you, and what you needed as a musician something I never got from Ralph Shapey, who was really closed minded. I studied composition with Ralph in 1975. He didn’t think I had any compositional talent, and I may have had something, but he hadn’t the patience to arduously discover it with me. Shapey didn’t understand himself, how could he comprehend a budding naïve problem ridden student who loved music like me.

2. When did you first compose a piece of music? What is your earliest opus?
I actually "assembled" a piece of music from printed scraps of discarded music, very ecologically minded. It was the "Concert for Clarinet (1970)" was my first piece, for unaccompanied Clarinet. It was performed numerous times, was quite a hit for its time. Later I added electronics, piano and cello; and called it "Oracle" also of my "assemblage" technique where I pasted these melodic materials on large sheets, made them into books a page, each page being a texture, one-idea, and the musician can play them anyway round, begin anywhere and go wherever you like for the page. I still have this music somewhere, never discarded it. My style was a la Cage, and Earle Brown. I also did a nice brass quartet, WATT after Samuel Beckett’s novel, I still have a recording of that, from 1970; I am a very visually oriented person but have a bad mediocre writing hand, So all my scores gotta look good, to feel good;. Later I did a number of percussion pieces for James Dutton’s Ensemble at the American Conservatory of Music in the Fine Arts Building. Also one piece for Solo Soprano and Percussion. "4 E 77."

3. When did you first use computers for composing?
I never got into computers and music. I was never a technical person. I wish I could have been. I studied with Ramon Zupko electronic music and found it tedious and boring. Luciano Berio came to visit the studio but he had nothing to say; There are some things you never learn in music even after 40 years, Some things however that you thought you would never learn, you learn easily, as for me aesthetics, history and philosophy and George Flynn’s TRINITY, that I’ve played numerously well WOUND, in Berlin, Edmonton and Chicago. I have a great idea for a piece for Tubas and LIVE Electronics with computer on Katrina debacle in New Orleans. I like to study chaos theory, Mandelbrot Sets, fractals, geometric shapes, but have not developed it. That is a full time job. In the early days I did do much tape music with acoustic, self-recorded my prepared piano I made, and a fender-rhodes piano I had, also "musique concrete-like" things, hanging the microphone out the window; dragging the microphone on the floor, and did whatever I could primitively. I learned how to splice tape indeterminately, and use this then with acoustic instruments.

4. Who are the living composers (both in Chicago and abroad) that you feel deserve attention?
Well in no particular order I like much of the music I’ve heard at the Green Mill on Sundays for the past 20 Years; Jeff Kowalkowski is very original, has his own language as Julia Miller and technology, electric guitar, and George Flynn. In Europe I’ve grown quite fond of Stefan Streich’s music in Berlin, he writes this very geometric music I guess you can call it. Like the work of Carl Andre, or Richard Serra in the visual arts, very primordial, basic, earthy; everything is planned, and he uses interesting combinations, like Viola and Bass Flute, short pieces, 5 minutes; It is all very well planned. The metronome is always 60 to the quarter like real-time. He has a wonderful lyrical sense within this context, which is unusual.
John Cage was quite an early influence, I tried to buy all his music, and saw him in 1972 or so with Merce Cunningham in Chicago. Later I had dinner with him in 1986 we did his "Hynmkus" at the Art Institute. Cardew’s "Treatise" was an inspiration in the early days, I performed this at the University of Chicago, 1972 with Perry Vinson and Tom Darter.
Cardew wrote to me as early as 1969-1970, and sent many of his graphic pieces, "Schooltime composition" Then we both turned to politics and Marxism simultaneously around the same time. I studied with Richard Teitelbaum at the Art Institute, when it was just beginning its sound and video department; we did the "Concert for Piano", of John Cage with a chamber group of students there. I played trombone in his class, all for non-credit. He introduced me to graphic notation, microtonality. Fredric Rzewski then was there and we talked some. He took his place in teaching here in Chicago for about one year.

5. What is good and bad about the new music scene here in Chicago?
What’s always bad is the politics that arises around who gets the share of the money. I believe there is always enough to go around, but the Illinois Blago thieves all want to retire early, so they embezzle to their hearts content, and always got a way to embezzle big deals at our expense, like selling off Midway Airport, parts of O’Hare, and now the Olympics. They are all "Bag-Men" for someone. Like the 400million-plus$$$ for Millennium Park; many retired on that piece of change. There used to be quite vibrant scene in Chicago in the Eighties, very ecumenical, collective like with New Music Chicago, all self-supporting groups for the most part, at least more than today. I think because everyone needed everyone else, like our immigrant ancestors when they came here, they were a tight nit community because they needed each other for jobs.
Those today in new music who get the lion’s share of this funding are not very imaginative either at what they do. They seem to stick to a tried and tested formula for putting derrieres in the seats, and leave it at that. And then it all becomes a "party" for their friends. They do whomever they know and will butter their bread in another city, this vice-versa stuff. We all do it. But when you got relative "BIG" money$$$ to do it like a $100,000 yearly budget or more, you squeeze out most of everybody, and once you begin "squeezing" you keep "squeezing" for whatever you do.

There simply is enough to go around, but there are small tribal Music "mafias" here in Chicago that make it their business to get all the money$$$ there is to get. But wherever you are you gotta begin your own scene yourself. No one is going to hand it to you, because you are really not important in the larger scheme of society and reality.

6. What is your opinion about the intersection of political ideas and new music. Do you think it is futile for composers to be socially engaged? Do you consider your work to be political in any way?
This question still makes people in the arts angry; we still have this tribe of "Art for Art sake people." Don’t they know that serious music has been living in exile for decades, it is all-marginal. Serious music has little audiences. Even in Europe where there is more money for it, you have political force fields, where one select group gets everything, the institutionalization of new music, Boulez and IRCAM was the prototype for this and I suppose there are clones of this all over the globe. It doesn’t matter for you as composers, should continue to make your own scene, and form your own independent collectives.

For the past ten years I like giving "By-invitation" Non-public concerts. Don’t let the Media know anything, they can’t help you anyway, and the Media, like the Classical music stations are homogenized now, their functions are to streamline their product so that when the station is sold it can get a 100 million$$$$-plus amount. Like WNIB in Chicago when it was sold. Syndicates in the Media offered Studs Terkel one-million$$$ for his spot. He refused. They had to wait until he died.

Without politically engaged music, composers would not have a context, a perspective, and a "brain" for what they do. And composers should quickly learn the political world in which they write music, and produce culture; Culture is the last place the Ruling Elites have been "colonizing." The "Disneyfication" of culture I call it. There is nothing draconian here, or terrible, this is how capitalism works, it is its function to accumulate wealth and solicit surplus profit, by, Sports, Behemoths or Rock n’ Pop, Boulez or Pornography it is all the same now. So as a serious composer I’d think it is part of your job to know the places, the contexts in which you, yourself within this context work and think and write.

Music as an art form itself is also enriched by political imagery. People need this consciousness, people need to be reminded of atrocities and corruption, people’s struggles around the globe or right here in Chicago in Humboldt Park, or they will simply forget. And without anything happening on the bottom, there will never be any change at the top. If you as a composer artist don’t do it, don’t depend on anyone else to do it. Some prefer this, to do nothing, to invert Lenin’s great pamphlet, "What Needs to Be Done," now I saw a postcard with Lenin sitting smiling, it said "Nothing needs to Be Done". If you are sitting on a few million dollars$$$, you don’t need change, You simply need things to remain the same.

7. Describe your compositional process at the current time.
I always begin with a concept, an image, an idea, like my "Kinderscenen" for the children of Africa, I try to use known genres and subvert them. The music always comes afterwards, after I have seen photos and done some research. Now I’ve never been to Africa so liberals will criticize this, for which I answer, "Trade places with me, you devote your life to being a composer without pay of any kind for what you do. Then see how many accept this" I don’t develop my music very much in the traditional way, or the morphology that Boulez always looks for in a piece of music. I like one-idea pieces because the idea the image to me is just as important as how the intervals move. My music has grown complex over the past 12 years but remains lyrical. I need to have that communication with the voice always there. Lately I’ve devoted my work to the piano and to Thelonius Monk, working his songs into concert pieces, like half-an-hour for one song. I came to playing jazz very late. I was never good at it, until quite recently, the past 5 years. So this is how Monk worked, taking one song and playing it for about an hour. This is how I work as well, and again this concept is transferred. I try to bring more to it then with development of intervals, harmonies, and piano resonance of it in my own way. This has been the neglected part of American music if you can speak in that way. Composers like me should take jazz greats as a source for materials to do pieces, you are not really writing, but working up the piece, assembling it, projecting it; in that respect it is experimental, a word no one ever uses today.

8. What is your prediction for the use of computers in the future of music?
You still gotta say something with the materials you work with, computers are not a "free-ticket", it doesn’t, should not make your life any easier. In fact now you got more responsibility, because you gotta prove that using computers has something above and beyond acoustic music. Luigi Nono and AMM of London has taught that LIVE electronic music works quite well. You don’t sacrifice the "Human" element then, and your music remains within a complex situation. But you can see where the "de-humanizing" residue is always with us, composers simply wanting to escape into a Never-Never-Land of electronics; the Pop world has been going full-tilt, they have been producing interesting things with electronics, as the Black Eyed Peas.

9. If you had to pick one work, or collection of works by a single composer to bring with you to a desert island, what would it be?
Only One? Iannis Xenakis, because his music is simply "shapes" "patterns", designs, like bringing interesting looking rocks or twigs, something to contemplate. And he used extended technique so he got the most from the instruments he wrote for; As composers we should always think about the "shape" of things, of a melody, a rhythm, a texture, a vocal line, we live and create by shapes forms; If I couldn’t bring Xenakis then I’d prefer lots of music paper.

10. What is your advice to young composers studying today, what do they absolutely need to know?
They need to know themselves, and work toward something, finding a voice. That is still possible. Yes get excited about new music and concerts, other composers, but then step back to see where you are going. And I know that most of the time, you don’t know where you are going, but then I’d advise experiment but with a conscious to the larger society, so you are not simply looking at your own navel, introspectively; Society and culture today does not need more" genius composers" to get all the money to write inconsequential music as we see coming out of Big City Orchestras, and recording contracts. Instead find a corridor, a pathway to people to whom you hope to communicate with. You need to have some kind of audience in mind, some larger collective in mind to be a composer. Sometimes this collective is the globe itself.

You should look outward at the globe, and down the street, where you live and always be inquisitive, and question everything you do. A composer is like a social scientist, a research person a philosopher of people, of life.

Frank Abbinanti
July, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Special Upcoming NMGM Concert - this Sunday!

The Reparametrization Underground plays an afternoon of written and improvised music including works by Ryan Ingebritsen, Katherine Young, and Thelonious Monk. They will be joined by Auris featuring Christopher Preissing, Guillermo Gregorio, and Julia Miller.

Sunday, June 14th

Reparametrizaton Underground

$5 admission

The Reparametrizaiton Underground is a group of improvisers who engage in interactive improvisations where one sonic thread is manipulated and created by multiple acoustic and electronic performers. The ensemble seeks to foster organic interaction between the acoustic and the electronic. Instead of being directly manipulated by electronics, the instrumentalists and electronic performer work in tandem, weaving one sonic "thread," in which the action of each individual directly affects the others’ sound, creating a chance for completely original, uniquely democratic activity. Featuring an array of talent across many background and genres of music, this incarnation features electronic artist and founder Ryan Ingebritsen, flutist Shannon Budd, Violinist Erica Dicker, and Tubist/ multi-instrumentalist Dan Peck.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Jeff K: "10 Questions for Falesch"

1. Were you trained traditionally in music? Describe any formative experiences you have had.

No, I was not. I had no formal education in music and no childhood music lessons, but from about age five I had an interest in classical music, and in adolescence I added jazz to my world. I was constantly listening to music from recordings and from the radio (WFMT provided a musical education of incalculable value in my first two decades). I felt contented listening to the standard classical repertoire during that time, but did so quite critically -- I was capable of near rage when this or that conductor took a tempo or sought a dynamic I thought to be, um, "insensitive." Naturally, in search of interpretive nirvana, the result was umpteen recordings of the same work. At one time I had 22 recordings of the Eroica Symphony and almost as many of the Brahms 4th. This music, from the grooves of a hunk of plastic, was profoundly formative. In my third decade, with a good career in electronics engineering at hand, I continued and deepened my music listening. Music was still the central focus of my emotional life, but I hadn't yet overcome the silly notion that I was simply not put on this earth to be a musician. This was a source of dissonance in my life, to be sure. My appetite for other repertoire, eventually including the post-tonal, seemd to make it impossible for me to collect recordings enough to satisfy myself. In spite of the joy I was still getting from listening, I became frustrated not being involved in the actual creation of music.

2. When did you first compose a piece of music? What is your earliest opus?

Excluding banging on pots and pans to an Art Blakey record when I was 16, I made music for the first time at age 46. At this time I simply decided to crush that outsider-dissonance and made it my sole purpose: find a way to make my own music. That first music was for a play that was heard in the theater from a recording made via MIDI sequencing and samplers. In this first experience with electronic instruments I already felt an aversion to straight sampling of traditional instruments, so I mixed and layered samples with glitched and noisy sounds.

My earliest notated piece was finished two years later - a little solo piano piece called "Whirligig," which was performed by Wilbur Kruse, at, yes, the Green Mill.

3. When did you first use computers for composing?

Computers for musical "word processing" -- from the beginning (MIDI sequencing). Much later on I began to use software toolkits (MAX/MSP, etc) to explore my own sound-design and found some of the randomization functions useful in banging out local structures, experimenting with permutations of pitch sets, etc. I'm just now beginning to explore software for true algorithmic composition, but have never finished anything of that type.

4. Who are the living composers (both in Chicago and abroad) that you feel deserve attention?

These can be electroacoustic or not.Good, your wording frees me to give "electroacoustic" mere footnote status :-) Seriously though, a tendency to make it secondary is largely due to my having so recently come to it. My deepest musical experiences were happening long before I became aware of electronics in music beyond amplifying a guitar. So, here's a terrifying admission: Overcoming the belief that "profound" or weighty music can only be performed by humans on non-electronic instruments is a very recent accomplishment for me.I'm anxious about questions like this, because I'd like to offer hundreds of names. Okay, two of our Chicago composers immediately come to mind: Robert Lombardo and George Flynn. Music by these two has deeply moved me and I'd like it if their names were on the tips of tongues all over the planet.The footnote: In my view, Åke Parmerud, Jonathan Harvey, and Hans Tutschku are utter giants in electroacoustics. They find their way around the orchestra pretty well too.

5. What are you going to miss about Chicago? What is good and bad about the new music scene here?

A dense loaf of Polish Rye that weighs twelve pounds and offers good resistance to even the strongest of jaws. That will be missed. I think the new music scene here is superbly non-bigoted (among the practitioners, anyway). Chicago is justly internationally recognized for our "out jazz" and free-improvisation people and I like the interaction here between that scene and the so-called new-classical scene. This vibrant cross-pollination makes everybody more brave and open-minded. What's bad about the scene? Hmmm... No downtown support for new music, but what else is new? That seems to be endemic to our entire continent. I suppose it makes the experimenters hungrier, and that may ultimately be a good thing (at least for their music-loving great grandchildren)

6. What is your opinion about the intersection of political ideas and new music. Do you think it is futile for composers to be socially engaged? Do you consider your work to be political in any way?

I'm struggling with the word "intersection." How about these variants of the question: Can an art form like new music, or, can *any* art form influence politics of the day? Will a composer who is on-board with a particular political philosophy feel better about her music if she thinks that philosophy is somehow expressed in her music? Can issues of the day provide nuggets of meaning that readily get turned into musical structures and themes, somehow giving the music added extra-musical worth? These are questions that play well, I think, in the gaggles of post-modernism. My sympathies seem to fit better with good old-fashioned modernism - music for music's sake, etc. I admit to jumping on a topical/political platform in a couple of my own pieces, but I'm happy to say I've gotten over it. Those pieces were not at all political, only my program notes were political.There's no futility in social engagement, whether by a musician or a plumber. Anyone capable of communicating an idea can do some good, I'd say.

7. Describe your compositional process at the current time.

What are you working on now? I'm in between musical projects (my move to New York is imminent, so there will be a couple months of down time), but I just finished the first pop tune of my career! Back in March, the British electro-pop musician Imogen Heap dropped a vocal track on a music hosting web site I use. It's characterized as a remix competition, but it involved composing and producing everything underneath the solo vocal stem. At completion I wound up with a 28 track mixdown for the little 3-minute tune (yes, I took it seriously!). It's titled The Song That Never Was and my submission can be heard here (I use the presumptuous handle "AvantGuy"). My recent projects have been electroacoustic and involve noise textures and a solo instrument or the voice. I normally create some of the content first and then that will suggest to me a gesture or series of gestures. When I begin, any predetermined formal structure is only the barest of notions about a shape: maybe slow-fast-slow, or dense-sparse-dense, etc (I do like "three":) The content may be bit of processed vocal or instrumental sound, or it may be a pitch series with or without a particular instrument or electronic sound in mind at first. If it's a vocal piece with words, I gravitate toward nonsequitur and nonsense verse, although I have used poetry. A piece with wordless vocals would usually not feature the singer in a solo role.

8. What is your prediction for the use of computers in the future of music?

The important innovators in the field have and always will ensure the composer's own aesthetic sense remains at the core of the process. There will be electronic instruments and controllers that have the tactile subtlety of traditional instruments (and will require similar effort and study to master). This may take another century or more, given the slow evolution of truly interactive musicial instrument controllers. As for how this will affect future composers musical styles, I can't be specific, but I know it will be profound, but it will be very gradual. I just hope they never abandon counterpoint! :):) Traditional orchestral instruments will not die. Instead, there will be further advances in compositons that mix them with computer processes via a level of interaction that is infinitely more robust than we can achieve currently.

9. If you had to pick one work, or collection of works by a single composer to bring with you to a desert island, what would it be?

One work: Beethoven Eroica Symphony.

Collection of works: Beethoven Late Sonatas and Quartets.

You'll appreciate the fact in answering the question I had to decide against typing Das Lied von der Erde (Mahler), Into the Labyrinth (Maxwell-Davies), String Quartet (Lutoslawski), Trinity (George Flynn), Crescent (Coltrane), Mortuos plango, vivos voco (Harvey), Symphony #10 (Shostakovitch), Symphony #4 (Brahms), Gesang der Junglinge (Stockhausen), and 300 others. I wanted to conform to the spirit of your question, so that's why I didn't type those other names :)

10. What is your advice to young composers studying today, what do they absolutely need to know?

They need to know that beauty exists. They must be confident in their own definition, their own concept of beauty. They need to learn to submit totally and unconditionally to that beauty. Only then will they know how to create it themselves. Only then will they truly want to create it.

--Bob Falesch

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jeff Kowalkowski Review of May 3 2009

"One Listener's Interpretation of May 03, 2009 at the Green Mill" by Jeff Kowalkowski

Arriving after the start of Timothy Edwards "Triptych" I was relieved to have escaped the noise of Uptown, bustling on a beautiful blue-sky day. Tim's piece (already 11 years old) reminded me of Jon Hassell, except with saxophone. The eloquent reverb was mesmerizing. I was mildly disappointed by the fade-out ending, which always seems to be the easiest way out of such beautiful textures, but the sound of the piece was other-wordly. I was immediately convinced that I was in the right place to hear music.

John Timothy Saunders "Akashira" --Imagine Poulenc or Milhaud with more cellular repetitions, and references to Japanese folk tableaux. I heard this piece about a month ago at the Chicago Flute Club concert, and I was very happy to hear it again at the Green Mill. The sound of the piece in different spaces has a huge impact on the end effect. The form is very strong and recognizeable. I enjoyed the soloist vs. trio that seemed to dominate the first and second movements. The third movement is a crowd pleaser, with textures of Mendelssohn. The performance by the Great Lakes Quartet was very inspiring, they are excellent floutists. I hope this piece will be recorded soon.

Noe Cuellar's "To Obverse" is among my favorite pieces from the program. The pacing fit my mood. It reminded me (vaguely) of Estonian organ pieces, slow and low, fundamental frequencies, difference tones. At moments it was John Bull, two part counterpoint, but played at a tempo very very slow, beneath any pulse or dance rhythm. There were also some Messiaen chords of "god" in there, is that accidental? The cue-card size score probably contained the harmonic changes to the tune. The harmonium seems to be a perfect instrument for the size/shape of the Green Mill, in terms of "listening room." And, Noe's performance was engaging and singular. Again, I refer to difference tones! The use of multifareous keyboard instruments is an identified course of action for the Green Mill series! We should do a keyboardist festival.

"Bone Metal Meditation" was my favorite piece of the afternoon. I find Charles Lipp's music to be compelling and full force. His knowledge of the woodwinds is unmatched. Combine that power-punch with smart percussion continuo: Steve Butters produced the unison four mallet ostinato between double bongo, cow bell, and wood block, with all attacks simultaneous, while Jeremy Ruthrauff (the best saxophonist in town) activates two distinct registers, sometimes colliding with the thin percussion, sometimes just slightly eliding attacks. This piece uses the absolute (maybe) full range of the Baritone Sax, with amazing timbral control. The piece seemed to be one single gesture, and as listeners we are moved through it, as if in slow motion. This piece definetly put me off-kilter more than any other today.

Julia Miller's "Princes" reminded me of street theater in Avignon. Everything the flute is not supposed to be able to do is done in this piece. There are excellent grooves, and modulation of the speaker's voice that only acoustic situations can produce, for example multiphonics and speaking through the tube. I am curious to hear how this piece is mastered after Trevor Wilcock records it. His performance abilities are extraordinary, the combination of his flute virtuosity and the immediacy of his narrative presentation are stunning. Julia, Trevor, will you add effects in post production or just do the straight-up?

"for many notes and many players" was also a highlight of the afternoon. Such a beautfiul sound, to have all the musicians (we the audience :) playing single tones. It made me think of opportunities for spatial configurations, for example using the organ behind the bar, and also placing musicians in every knook-and-krany of the Green Mill, playing some unified texture. The sound reminded me of some realizations of "December 1952" by Earl Brown that I have taken part in. I also must note that Rita Flynn played a mean ding-a-ling bell, and George Flynn rocked the nipple gong! Wow!

Placing musicians around the space seems to me a new (revived) field of inquiry for the Green Mill new music series. Or, we can just perform on boats out on the lake, like R. Murray Schafer. The score for this piece (an FFT plot transcribed into pitch and frequency notation) was NOT easy to read! Especially in the dark. I am not sure that the pitches matched what the musicians played, but the unfolding through the attempt seemed to be the goal here. Julia! What word(s) is your voice saying in this sample-plot printed on the cover of the program?

Guillermo Gregorio works with his "Madipieces" (a serious series) like an architect, because that's how he was trained. He speaks of concrete' intermezzo, and "romantically spirited percussion cadenzas." (comment by Bob Falesch). Joined today by Auris, this was yet another eloquent slice of the iconoclast composer's ongoing life-score. Gg needs a band to conduct! Gregorio's pieces do not have a beginning, middle, nor end. His scores are living organisms, and musicians amplify small portions of the stream, accidentaly interpreting the precise notations. There is no such thing as improvisation in these scores, (ironically!) The result is always a surprise pleasure to hear, with any ensemble, and I always feel Gregorio's music ends too soon. The man needs a band and a venue where he can perform for four hours or so.

Sharon Chung is an amazing violist and Jeremy Brunk: first-class virtuoso of marimba. Bravo!

Robert Falesch: "Verisaras"--This piece is the reason the Green Mill series is vibrant. The care taken in the recorded vocalists' recitation, the flashes of highly processed sounds that speed in and out of perception, the sound of rats talking, the excellence of the high pitched saxophone (again Ruthrauff, now doubling sopranino), crunchy-voice electronic, this is computer music at it's finest, by a computer programmer/poet! I think you should spend more time composing Bob!

To end this memorable Spring concert, Lisa Abbatomarco made-my-day with this tableaux of sounds becoming extinct (?). This work has so many layers, but the focus in this article is the sound. The form was very strong: Long first section only 3 voices, second section: thum thum thum of pedal, left left right right, hypnotic motion, is it a factory? The stage at the Green Mill looks awesome with the four performers engaged in their roles, and the lights on the sewing machines cast a calm glow. The sounds of this piece were eerily soothing, familiar, and also not familiar because these are ignored sounds, at least some of them are. Paper sounds, Twitching. This piece is a reminder that the theatrical aspect of stage performance cannot be ignored by contemporary composers. And, all sound(s) is/are available to the composer. This performance seemed Fluxus inspired, and also archival, in terms of the sounds chosen. Bravo Lisa!

Musicians! Composers! Please respond to my thoughts on this concert, I would certainly appreciate some opposing views! (or, hearings, or, opinions).......And, let me know if you want to get your music on the OCTOBER 25 concert.

Yours in musique,

Jeff Kowalkowski
musik critik

Saturday, May 2, 2009

NMGM May 3 Concert Program


Timothy Edwards - Triptych (1998) for alto saxophone and 2-channel digital audio
Andrew Carpenter, alto saxophone

John Timothy Saunders - Akashina
Great Lakes Flute Quartet

To Obverse
Noé Cuellar, harmonium

Charles Lipp - Bone Metal Meditation (2009)
Jeremy Ruthrauff, baritone saxophone
Steve Butters, percussion

Julia Miller - Princes
Trevor Wilcock, flute


Julia Miller - for many notes or many players
Auris + Guillermo Gregorio, clarinet, et al

Guillermo Gregorio - Madipiece #3 (Rodchenko Suite Part 2)
Auris + Guillermo Gregorio, clarinet

Alejandro Vinao - Khan Variations for solo marimba
Osvaldo Golijov - Mariel for viola and marimba
Sharon Chung, viola
Jeremy Brunk, percussion

Robert Falesch - Versirás
Jeremy Ruthrauff, sopranino saxophone and electronics

Lisa Abbatomarco - “Moot Distillation (thenow)”
a sound piece for 3 voices and 2 sewing machines
text extractions from the Encyclopedia Britannica #26 Macropaedia Knowledge in DEPTH. Construed, reconfigured, and some impressions of Gertrude Stein.
Lisa Abbatomarco
Maritza Bautista
Meredith Zielke
Judith Sample

NMGM - Mayfest

New Music at the Green Mill is happy to participate in the Mayfest sponsored by New Music Chicago. Following is an article on the festival by Wynne Delacoma in the Sun-Times.

MAYFEST showcases new music ensembles

May 1, 2009

It's a contemporary music festival literally waiting to happen.
Beginning Saturday and running through May 17, 11 of Chicago's new music ensembles will give 12 concerts in venues ranging from the Green Mill lounge in Uptown to the Museum of Contemporary Art downtown. New Music Chicago, an umbrella organization that fosters composers and ensembles devoted to contemporary music, has decided to link the concerts in a two-week MAYFEST extravaganza.

"MAYFEST grew out of all the new music concerts already planned by the members,'' according to Larry Axelrod of the Chicago Composers Consortium, a member group of New Music Chicago. "New Music Chicago is simply throwing a spotlight on ... new art music here.''
Chicago's contemporary music scene has grown steadily in the last decade. Talented young musicians have formed groups like ensemble dal niente, a five-year-old collective of 25 musicians whose repertoire ranges from Radiohead to Stockhausen, while established groups such as the Chicago Chamber Musicians have expanded their repertoire into the 21st century. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's MusicNOW series has primed the musical pump, and during any given week, local fans of contemporary music usually can find a concert to attend. The next two weeks, however, are unusually jam-packed.

Following is the festival lineup. Check each group's Web site for complete details.

7:30 p.m. Saturday: Chicago Composers Forum and ensemble dal niente. Acme Arts at St. Paul's 2215 W. North. New music by members of the Chicago Composers Forum and the Seattle Composers Alliance. $10-$15.
2 p.m. Sunday: New Music at the Green Mill. The Great Lakes Flute Quartet and other ensembles. Green Mill, 4802 Broadway. $5.
7:30 p.m. May 8: Chicago Chamber Musicians. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Music of George Crumb and Rolf Wallin. $10-$25. Pre-concert talk with Wallin at 6:30 p.m.
6 p.m. May 11: Chicago Composers Consortium. 4933 N. Oakley. Cyber Victorian Parlor Concert. $5-$10.
5:30 p.m. May 12: Open rehearsal of Fulcrum Point New Music Project. Darnton and Hersh Violins, Stradivari Music and Arts Center, 30 N. Adams, Suite 1200. Free.
6 p.m. May. 15: Chicago Composers Forum. PianoForte Chicago, 410 S. Michigan. Experimental music performed by pianist Matthew McCright. $10-$15.
7:30 p.m. May 15: Contempo, the University of Chicago's new music ensemble. Fulton Hall, 1000 E. 59th St. Free.
8 p.m. May 15: New Music DePaul. DePaul Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden. Free.
7:30 p.m. May 16: Northwestern Contemporary Music Ensemble. Music on the theme of technology and nature. Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle, Evanston. $5-$7.
7:30 p.m. May 16: The Accessible Contemporary Music ensemble presents rags, stomps and stride music performed by pianist Reginald Robinson. Gottlieb Hall, Merit Music School, 38 S. Peoria. $5-$12.
2 p.m. May 17: The ensemble CUBE performs works by Samuel Barber, William Bolcom, Ralph Shapey and other composers in a concert featuring baritone Daniel Billings. Elizabeth Stein Co., 410 S. Michigan. $10-$15.
7 p.m. May 17: Maverick Ensemble. Music of Elliott Carter, Steven Stucky, Robert Sierra, Villa-Lobos and others. Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 W. Chicago. $15.

Wynne Delacoma is a local free-lance writer.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Upcoming Concert!

Our next concert will be this Sunday, May 3, from 2-5pm.
Composers/performers will include:

Bob Falesch

Jeremy Ruthrauff

Steve Butters

Charles Lipp

The Great Lakes Flute Quartet (Scott Dankert, Meret Fon-Revutsky, Lisa Goethe-McGinn, Stephanie Pedretti)

John Saunders

Guillermo Gregorio

Auris (Julia Miller, Eric Leonardson, Chris Preissing)

Tim Edwards

Lisa Abbatomarco

Sharon Chung

Jeremy Brunk

Alejandro Vinao

Osvaldo Golijov

Trevor Wilcock

Presented in conjuction with New Music Chicago's Mayfest (May 1-17)

New Music at the Green Mill (the blog)

It's amazing to think, but I've been a part of New Music at the Green Mill for almost a decade now, first on George's concerts, and then with my own. George had a profound influence on my compositional life at DePaul - where I wrote my first "real" piece, a woodwind quintet. So, later, when he invited me to host a concert as part of the Green Mill Series, I was honored and thrilled.

Many of my concerts include electroacoustic improvising, and almost all have expanded on the house PA to add two, four, or 5.1 channels of audio to the mix. We have also presented a variety of live video and poetic performances, as well as a diverse selection of acoustic music.

There is such a rich history not only with the Green Mill Jazz club, but with the new Music at the Green Mill series. When George started it, it truly filled a void, and provided opportunities for performers and composers that did not exist elsewhere in Chicago. For that reason, as an attempt to begin to archive this history, we have started this blog. So read, reflect, enjoy, and come to the concerts!
--Julia Miller

New Music at the Green Mill (origins)

The memory of my first Green Mill concert dates back to 1991. I had written a piece called "Through the Trees" for skeletal orchestra (13 players), and I was preparing this piece for my composition recital at DePaul. Jim O'Rourke was the wacky conductor. At the time I was keen on getting my music played off-campus, "in the real world". The idea of performing where Al Capone used to hang out was intriguing to me. My grandparents had told me stories about prohibition and the underground tunnels. I also thought it would be a nice variety shift for the Green Mill, and no one can deny that it is an ideal room for chamber music, especially since the smoking ban cleared the air. I remember all Dave Jemilo said about "new music" was: "So, you want the piano tuned and shit?"

I continue to help facilitate the Fall concert, after Frank Abbinanti became tired of doing it several years ago. I feel Frank is "big shoes to fill." I feel he is among the most under-rated of Chicago composers. Especially due to his successful reference to politics and current social problems in his music and concert research, including his recent article on "Scary Music" which is extremely provocative. I always walked away inspired and provoked by Frank's Green Mill programming over the years, and I learned about Luigi Nono and Cornelius Cardew from Frank.

The special thing about the Green Mill series is that anyone who has a piece of original music, in any form or configuration is welcome to present it on one of our concerts. Composers of any ilk, experience, and background are welcome to join us. All they have to do is contact Julia, George, or myself. We can provide a nice stage with piano, some music stands, a MONO PA system that is wired in a very "jazz club" sort of way, and stand lights (it is really dark on the stage, so if you have to read a lot of notes, bring a flashlight!--or just improvise!)
--Jeff Kowalkowski


From George Flynn...I started the Sunday afternoon Green Mill concerts around 1988 as an invitation to composers, improvisors and performers to mount their efforts in a congenial and non-judgemental atmosphere. I stressed that the focus of the concerts would be “new music", although I never tried to define that phrase, and always felt that it should be interpreted in the broadest possible sense. My own concerts have always occured in January (around the time of my birthday), but I and the Green Mill people were happy to consider opportunities to have new music concerts more frequently, and at other times during the year. Frank Abbinanti was the first to join the series, and sponsored his concerts on the last Sunday in October. Later, Julia Miller joined with her spring series - the first Sunday in May. Jeff Kowalkowski eventually replaced Frank Abbinanti, and continues to sponsor the fall concerts. This series - New Music at the Green Mill - thus continues with the three concerts each year - fall (Kowalkowski), winter (Flynn) and spring (Miller). I note with pleasure that it has inspired several new music organizations in the Chicago area to use the Green Mill as a viable venue for their new music concerts! I’m delighted that the great variety of compositional and improvisational styles, orientations and predilections continues to be a significant feature of the Green Mill series, and appropriately reflects the gamut of musical activity in the Chicago area. I consider the series to be a significant aspect of the vibrant Chicago musical scene. --George Flynn