Mar 04 2012

Change Is Good (Website Redesign)

Published by under update

Hey out there! Just a heads up to let you know that this blog has moved! All this content has been migrated over to my primary website, alexandragardner.net. From now on all future updates, news, photos and assorted fun and games will be posted there, snugly alongside my compositions, events, contact information and all that jazz. So be sure to update your bookmarks and subscribe to the new feed.

Thanks & see you there!

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Feb 20 2012

Meet Longfellow

Published by under fun,update

Introducing a new addition to the composer-cat continuum!

Although I had no intention of having a pet when I moved to Baltimore (I have enjoyed having cats in the past, but it’s been several years since the last batch) it seems that the universe had other plans. This guy showed up on the front porch a couple months after moving in:

Longfellow the Cat

I had seen him around the street quite a bit, because a neighbor—a certifiable “crazy cat lady”—was feeding the various strays, several of which had run away from a home nearby that is infamous for bad behavior, including animal hoarding. But last summer Crazy Cat Lady moved away, and the herd of felines redistributed themselves across the neighborhood. It didn’t take long for this boy to set up permanent camp at our place; I fed him a bit of tuna one afternoon, and that was it. Clearly I have a gigantic “S” tattooed on my forehead.

Although he already had a “street name,” I felt he needed something a little more…..refined, so now he is called Longfellow. Not only is he very tall indeed (standing on hind legs he can easily reach the kitchen counter), but like Henry Wadsworth’s Paul Revere, he always sounds the alert when strangers approach.

Long story short, after several months of trying unsuccessfully to find Longfellow a good home, which I thought would be easy (HA!), he injured his paw and we let him inside the house because he was limping badly. I feared he would tear up the place after living outside for so long, but much to my surprise, he is exceedingly well-behaved! He has far better kitty manners than any indoor cat I have ever owned, and responds well to gentle discipline and training. In addition, he is very healthy (no feline diseases or infestations of any sort) and had only strained one of his toes. Even though it was a minor injury, it took several weeks for his paw to heal, and during that time (remember that “S” on my forehead?) I got attached. Sigh. So here we are.

He’s got quirks, to be sure. He is definitely not a snuggly cat—he doesn’t like to be picked up, and has zero interest in sitting in laps. However, he loves to be petted, and he does enjoy being wherever the humans are hanging out. When he is happy he gives “head-butts.” Most days he keeps me company in my studio, oscillating between napping in his fleece-lined box and lounging on top of some cardboard file boxes. After a few months of living together, we seem to have arranged a schedule that works for everyone.

Now that he is well-fed, comfortable, and getting plenty of attention (including regular doses of fancy organic catnip thanks to my kitty-loving mom), he purrs all the time, and has become quite the showboat!

Longfellow loves cardboard boxes

I do hope that he’ll start helping out with the composing soon! Or maybe the copying. Right now he is lying on top of the score I’m working on.

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Dec 11 2011

Long Time, No See

Published by under music,update

just adorable, from freeimageslive / farndango

Holy Moly. Hi! Has it seriously been nine months? It’s turrrrble, so much radio silence.

Believe it or not, I have actually been writing all this time! In fact, I’ve probably written more words in the past nine months than in the last nine years (rest assured that I am just as surprised as you are). Since July 2010 I’ve been working as an editor of NewMusicBox, for which, in addition to tons of behind-the-scenes administration-y sorts of things like the herding of writers, editing all manner of media, planning, organizing, tweeting and such, I’ve been writing a weekly blog post, short essays about CDs that land on my desk, and producing some artist interviews. Lots of words about music. It’s a super cool way to keep the lights on, and I feel very fortunate to have such wonderful and talented folks to work with as Molly Sheridan, Frank J. Oteri, and the entire gang of the brand-spanking newly formed New Music USA.

So life in general has been mad busy and productive. Last spring N and I became homeowners in Baltimore, and now we think about things like plumbing and masonry far more than we ever imagined possible. I am absolutely loving Baltimore in all of it’s unabashed quirkiness. There is a strong sense of place here, and people are very attached to their “Charm City”. Such a change from the transience of Washington, DC!

Music projects are percolating along nicely, and this year has brought performances all around the country as well as abroad, including a tour in the Northernmost part of Sweden! I’m currently looking forward to some face time with the wonderful Nadia Sirota, to work on her new piece for viola and electronics, Seduction Involves Patience. It was a blast to write, and I can’t wait to hear her play it! I still need to write a program note for the piece, and I am seriously considering using this to do it. There is also a big new composition in progress which I hope to tell you more about in early 2012.

It’s looking like a hunkered-down, nose-to-grindstone set of adventures in the making for 2012, but if you decide to stick around, I promise to turn up the volume more frequently and share some words, sounds and pictures on this space.

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Mar 03 2011

Concerts, Goose Bumps, New Discoveries

Published by under inspiration,music,performance,update

Last week in New York was one big concert frenzy, and I had a blast! Notable things included:

Goose bumps! A clear signal that something very excellent is in progress. I experienced more than one episode of these as a result of:

Roomful of Teeth at the Ecstatic Music Festival. They delivered an utterly delightful, inspiring evening of vocal gymnastics concocted by William Brittelle, Caleb Burhans, and tUnE-yArDs. Wonderful stuff all around! I didn’t know the music of tUnE-yArDs (Merrill Garbus) before this concert, and for those who are fans of the Juana Molina/Andrew Bird do-it-ALL-yourself school of singer-songwriters employing loops for the Forces of Good, she is a great addition to that playlist! Plus, there’s yodeling.

Inuksuit by John Luther Adams at the Park Avenue Armory. I have already written some reflections about that elsewhere. And dear pal Molly Sheridan has wrought sheer brilliance about JLA that should be watched and read.

In addition to those events there was a hunk of the Music of Now marathon at Symphony Space. The world of new music totally needs more Errollyn Wallen!

Finally, I scurried over to Alice Tully Hall after a busy day to hear ICE perform. Imagine a concert of Feldman, Cage, Xenakis and Webern attracting hundreds! Love it! I was looking especially forward to hearing the Feldman pieces, and in the end was most taken with Jalons by Xenakis. I think I like the music of Xenakis for some of the same reasons I like the music of John Luther Adams – every so often through gigantic, thick, busy clouds of musical activity pop individual instrumental lines, as if bits of the composition’s DNA are being revealed. Like watching dolphins jump out of the ocean.

****

Among other happy discoveries is this film, which I am excited to see! In graduate school the best (and toughest) class I took was without a doubt ethnomusicology. I did my big research project on raves and techno music, and loved every minute of it. Say what you will – I got an A.

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Jan 31 2011

Now or Never Recording

Published by under music,performance,recording

All I can think to say about 2011 so far is whoa. More on that later!

The good people from Roulette sent the recordings from my November performance, and I have whipped together a mix of Now or Never for your listening pleasure.

It’s going to snow! Again. Buy milk! Buy bread! Buy toilet paper!! Aaaaaahhhhhhh!!!

(Snow drama is especially hilarious after a couple January weeks in Maine, where they know how to handle the stuff!)

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Dec 14 2010

A Very New Music Holiday

Published by under fun,music

Although this year I wasn’t able to make it out to the Baltimore enactment of Phil Kline’s Unsilent Night, the annual event organized by The Contemporary Museum’s Mobtown Modern Music Series, I did have a total blast putting together a new music holiday mixtape to accompany the event! I chose the tracks, which were then mixed into expansive loveliness by my favorite DJ Dubble8. His mix is so good that it began to snow as I was listening to it!! I kid you not!

The mixtape remains available for your listening pleasure here. Happy Holidays!

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Nov 24 2010

Mint Conditioner Recording

Published by under music,performance,recording,update

First of all, last week’s concert at Roulette was, to quote an enthusiastic listener, “absolutely bloody amazing!” Seriously. All of the musicians gave 150%, and I think the choice to follow three pieces for solo instrument and electronics with an acoustic ensemble work provided just the right sort of juxtaposition, or….palette-cleansing? Particularly notable was Logan Coale’s gripping performance of “Mint Conditioner” – I know the piece better than anyone, and I was on the edge of my seat! Thanks to Thomas Buckner and Interpretations for inviting me to part of the series, and to everyone who came out to the show!

Anyway, on to the business at hand! Logan and I took a little trip to Oktaven Audio in Yonkers, where we recorded “Mint Conditioner”, and you can listen to it here. We had a great time working with Ryan Streber, whose setup is quite luxurious (yet affordable!) – in addition to a serious microphone obsession, he has as his main mixing board the Studer 900 series console used by the Metropolitan Opera for live broadcasts over the last 20 years. Fancy!!

Somehow the piece feels like it might pair nicely with turkey and a hearty stuffing. Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!!

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Nov 17 2010

Performer Interview #10: Logan Coale, bass

Published by under music,performer interview

Bassist Logan Coale

Logan Coale is a native of Portland, Oregon. Logan is the Assistant Principal Bass of the Sarasota Opera Orchestra and is on faculty at the Kinhaven Music School in Weston, Vermont. In New York, Logan is a member of NOW Ensemble, The Knights Chamber Orchestra, and William Brittelle’s Television Landscape. He also performs regularly with Alarm Will Sound, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Wordless Music Orchestra, The Queen’s Band Baroque Music Ensemble, The Long Count with members of indie-rock band The National, and the Mark Morris Dance Group. Logan is a graduate of the Tanglewood Music Center where he was a fellow in 2004 and 2006, and has participated in the Aspen, Schlesswig-Holstein, Domaine-Forget, National Repertory Orchestra, and Moritzburg Festival Academy summer music programs. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in double bass performance from Boston University. His teachers include Edwin Barker, Principal Bass of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, BSO member Todd Seeber and Tim Pitts, Principal Bass of the Houston Symphony. Logan can be heard on Sony Classical and Ancalagon Records with The Knights, XL Recordings and Parlophone Records with Jonsi Birgisson of Sigur Ros, and on New Amsterdam Records with NOW Ensemble and Television Landscape.

How did you get started playing your instrument, and how did it turn into a career?
I got started playing bass in 5th grade, when I found out that Jaws sounded best on the bass. It became a career (wait you can make money at this?) when in college I figured out that I didn’t want to do anything else.

Talk about one of your most satisfying musical performance experiences.
High school Jazz band…I will never forget the first times I figured out how great playing music with a great group of friends could make me feel.

What gets you interested in/inspired by/excited about playing a new piece of music?
Getting to the point where I know a piece well enough that I can express my musical voice from within it.

What is your listening “guilty pleasure?”
Harper Blynn covering Beyonce’s Halo.

What projects do you have coming up that we should know about?
The NOW Ensemble album coming out in the spring. I’m beginning to work on recording a great two bass clarinet piece called Black by Mark Mellits using electric bass instead of the clarinets (look for it on the website in about a month), and I’m excited to be a part of Judd Greenstein’s new ensemble The Yehudim.

Please answer: If I were not a musician, I would be a ________, because _________.
I would be a ski patroller, because then I’d get to ski all the time.

***
Logan will be premiering Mint Conditioner for double bass and electronics on Thursday, November 18th at Roulette in NYC.

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Nov 14 2010

Performer Interview #9: Leigh Stuart, cello

Published by under music,performer interview

Cellist Leigh Stuart

Leigh Stuart is a versatile cellist who thrives on performing music from a wide range of styles and genres. She has toured the U.S. extensively as a chamber musician, performing in venues such as Alice Tully Hall, Bargemusic, Carnegie Hall, the Deer Valley Music Festival, the Library of Congress, the Lied Center of Kansas, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and countless others. She has also appeared with tap dancing virtuoso, Savion Glover, at the Spoleto Festival in Italy, songwriter Sufjan Stevens at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Jay-Z, Beyonce, and The Roots at Radio City Music Hall. Leigh is a founding member of the boundary-breaking new music group, Fireworks Ensemble, described as “adventurous and ahead of the curve” by the Washington Post and “musically fearless” by Time-Out New York. With Fireworks Ensemble, Leigh has premiered over one hundred new works by emerging and established composers, including a recent commission by Pulitzer-prize winning composer, David Del Tredici. Recently, Leigh has recorded for Cuneiform, E1, and Rough Trade. She also recorded Faure’s Elegy for an episode of the internationally broadcasted show, Law and Order: SVU and has since appeared as a cellist in dramas on CBS, NBC, in a music video for British pop star, Lucie Silvas, and in the Warner Brothers film August Rush.

How did you get started playing your instrument, and how did it turn into a career?
I began playing cello in fourth grade at my public school in Wilton, Connecticut. I was dreaming of learning the French Horn in fifth grade, but a couple months into the school year during fourth grade the school orchestra was still short on cellos. The director visited each classroom and asked if anyone would be interested playing cello. I’m not sure what made me raise my hand, but I volunteered. It immediately felt like my instrument, and while I did end up playing French Horn for eight years, the cello was my favorite. Going to graduate school and living in NYC definitely helped me to make connections and start my career. Also, some of my earliest professional concerts were with the Fireworks Ensemble.

Talk about one of your most satisfying musical performance experiences.
Some of my most satisfying musical experiences have performing Raymond Scott tunes with Fireworks Ensemble. I love the music, and it’s a thrill to perform it from memory as a group. I feel such a connection with the other musicians and incredibly energized by the music. I think it is also music that audiences emjoy, and it’s easy to feel an exchange of energy between those of us on stage and those who are listening. The other musical experience that continues to both terrify and inspire me is improvising, and I jump and any chance I get to do it these days.

What gets you interested in/inspired by/excited about playing a new piece of music?
I am most interested to learn a new piece once I find some way to connect to it emotionally. Once I feel like I can communicate something through the music, I can’t wait to perform it and this provides the inspiration to learn it.

What is your listening “guilty pleasure?”
My current listening pleasure these days is jazz, especially (in no particular order) Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Sara Vaughan, Stephane Grappelli, Thelonius Monk, Art Tatum, Fats Waller, and Esperanza Spalding. But the list goes on and on. I want to absorb as much as I can of this music as soon as possible!

What projects do you have coming up that we should know about?
In early 2011, I’ll be playing some shows at The Iridium Jazz Club in NYC with The Mahavishnu Project. Fireworks Ensemble also has a week-long residency at the Clefworks Music Festival in Montgomery, AL, and the ensemble will also release its recording of chamber rock pieces by Frank Zappa on the E1 label.

Please answer: If I were not a musician, I would be a ________, because _________.
If I were not a musician, I would be a journalist/writer, particularly one who would travel to other countries for research. I’m very social, I enjoy learning about people, places, and cultures that are foreign to me, and writing is another one of my passions.

***
Leigh will be premiering Bloom for cello and electronics on Thursday, November 18th at Roulette.

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Nov 08 2010

Performer Interview #8: Sara Budde, clarinet

Published by under music,performer interview

The time has come for more performer interviews! The three excellent musicians who will be gracing these pages will be featured performers on my November 18 Interpretations concert at Roulette. Come hear them play and meet them in person!

Clarinetist Sara Budde

Clarinetist and Bass Clarinetist Sara Budde performs frequently as a recitalist and chamber musician both in the US and abroad. Premiering many works for solo and chamber ensembles including Missy Mazzoli, Kyle Gann, Tristan Perich, and Nico Muhly, Budde focuses primarily on recent and contemporary music, emphasizing newly emerging composers. Sara has made professional appearances with such diverse and dynamic groups as Bang on a Can, So Percussion, The American Composers Orchestra, Sequitur, The National, The Woodstock Chamber Orchestra and The American Symphony Orchestra. Some of the festivals she has performed at include the Bang On A Can Marathon, Look and Listen, MusicNow, MATA festival, New Sounds Live and the Carlsbad Music Festival. Studying with David Shifrin, she received her Master of Music degree in clarinet performance from Yale University. Currently a member of Transit, Sara is performer and founding director of NOW Ensemble, a new music collective dedicated to the commissioning and performing of fresh new works.

How did you get started playing your instrument, and how did it turn into a career?
I started playing the clarinet when I was in middle school. I remember the day well – I was really excited to pick out my instrument, I was pretty sure I was going to be a world class french horn player. I went confidently to the horn section, my siblings all played various woodwinds, so I was clearly rebelling from something…I went over and grabbed the French Horn. The teacher told me to buzz my lips…and that was where that career quickly ended. I guess my lips just weren’t that flexible at the time. So, defeated I went over to the wind section and flaunted my clarinet skills (I had tried my brother’s numerous times) All very impressed they handed me my Yahmaha and I was off.

In college I figured music wasn’t really the type of thing you got too serious about. I guess that’s where psychology came in. One statistics class later and I was on the road to being a professional musician.

Talk about one of your most satisfying musical performance experiences.
There have been so many! I think one of my first most satisfying experiences was also right around when I decided to be a clarinetist. I was majoring in music at Bard College at the time. After realizing that I was serious about music I insisted to my advisor, Joan Tower, that I transfer to a “serious” music school – Julliard of course. It was a good experience for me; I got rejected, the first of many…Joan was a wonderful mentor and she encouraged me to make the best of my musical life at Bard. There was plenty of opportunity for that there. I found a group of fantastic musicians who were really excited about playing contemporary works and we decided to perform Quartet for the End of Time. This was no small feat! We worked hard all semester to put it together and decided to present the concert in the big hall on campus. We posted flyers, invited everybody we knew and jumped in full hearted. When the performance came around we had a packed hall. The show went wonderfully and the audience was astounded. The best thing about performing is turning the listeners on to something they haven’t experienced before, even in a familiar piece. That and feeling really good about yourself when you work hard to bring something to life.

What gets you interested in/inspired by/excited about playing a new piece of music?
Great music! There is so much out there and I am fortunate to try out a lot of things that haven’t been done before. There is an anxiety to presenting something that has never been heard but also an exhilaration. So much possibility. It’s really an honor and pleasure to work towards presenting new works sometimes even regardless of how personally attached you are to a piece. It’s a challenge if you love it and a challenge if you can’t stand it.

What is your listening “guilty pleasure?”
I guess most things I listen to. I love pop music, the classics and the new ones. Top 40? Sounds like a dance party! Elvis, bring it on! And lately, I guess this is the guilty one…even country music makes me want to sing.

What projects do you have coming up that we should know about?
I’m really excited about the NOW Ensemble album that is going to be released this spring. There is a film attached to it where I get to go into space! I mean, who wouldn’t be excited about that?!

Please answer: If I were not a musician, I would be a ________, because _________.
If I were not a musician, I would be a scientist, because they get to do all kinds of cool stuff and can be geeks with an great excuse.

***
Sara will be premiering Ónice for bass clarinet and electronics on Thursday, November 18th at Roulette.

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