Saturday, August 20, 2011

SOLI performs the World Premiere of Overland Dream in Arlington, Texas

SOLI with Peter Lieuwen after the Premiere

SOLI has been busy this summer! After our tremendously successful 2010-11 Season, we drove to Arlington, Texas to perform the World Premiere of Peter Lieuwen’s Overland Dream at the Texas Music Teacher’s Association conference.

And the performance was a great success!

Peter was selected for the conference’s annual composition prize out of a large pool of talented Texas based composers. We were fortunate to be approached by Peter about this commission last year. He was inspired to use this commission award to write a work for SOLI after hearing the ensemble play another work of his at our TEXAS concert in May 2010.

We worked with Peter for an hour the morning of the performance. And this was the first time Peter had ever heard us play the piece live! There is always a journey to be taken when a new piece is conceived and when we start working on it, both for the Composer and for us. Everyone starts hearing different things as the piece develops through rehearsals and discussions that there is almost always a growing process. Things can be added, edited and sometimes parts of the music can even be taken out completely! We were so happy and frankly relieved when Peter looked up from the score at the end of his first hearing with a big smile on his face! We are always so happy to hear when a Composer is happy with the initial work we have done and that we were able to get close to what they had in mind. But it is also a testament to how well the piece is written in the first place and Overland Dream is just that, a beautiful, well-written work which we enjoy performing a whole lot. This year Overland Dream will compete with entries from all the other state affiliates, and if chosen, SOLI will perform the work at the national conference of Music Teachers National Association in New York City this coming spring!

In November our San Antonio audiences will get to hear Overland Dream on our 2011-12 season opening concert, and we are already making plans with Peter to record the piece this coming fall. We’ll keep you posted.

Here is the link to the premiere performance of Overland DreamClick here
We hope you enjoy this wonderful piece as much as we do. Thanks Peter!

SOLI in rehearsal with Lieuwen

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

SOLI to perform a World Premiere by Peter Lieuwen @ TMTA

Peter Lieuwen

After a tremendously successful 2010-11 season SOLI is not quite done yet!  We are off to Arlington, Texas to perform the World Premiere of Overland Dream by composer Peter Lieuwen.

Every year Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) encourages the creation of new works by American composers by annually assisting its affiliated state associations in the creation and performance of new music through the national composer’s commissioning program. This year Texas Music Teachers Association (TMTA) commissioned Peter Lieuwen, Professor of Music and Composer-in-Residence at Texas A & M University. The premiere performance of his work will be at the annual convention in Arlington, Texas on June 18th.
When we first met Peter last May 2010 for our TEXAS program, he mentioned that he had originally started sketches for a piano trio for the commission, but after our performance of his beautiful piece Gulfstream he decided to write the commission for SOLI instead.

Well, the music has arrived and we love Overland Dream! Rehearsals are going fantastically well and we are working with Peter, through email, on the details to make sure the premiere is a great success. We are tremendously honored to be part of this project and looking forward to premiering this great work on June 18th.

Check out this very recent interview with Lieuwen about Overland Dream by our own John Clare.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

SOLI Dance Party

Program notes

James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix) (1942-70)
Star Spangled Banner (1780/1814/1969)
"The Star-Spangled Banner" is the national anthem of the United States of America. The lyrics come from "Defence of Fort McHenry", a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key, after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British Royal Navy ships in Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.
The poem was set to the tune of a popular British drinking song, written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club in London. "The Anacreontic Song" (or "To Anacreon in Heaven"), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key's poem and renamed "The Star-Spangled Banner", it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song. With a range of one and a half octaves, it is known for being difficult to sing.
During the final set of the historic Woodstock music festival Jimi Hendrix let loose with a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner on electric guitar that's been called everything from the most important political rock statement of the 1960s, to an afterthought caught in one of Hendrix's worst performances. It was his first gig since the breakup of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and all but 10% of the festival's 400,000 concert goers stayed for his Monday morning set. But there was no question the performance was controversial. Even today, music scholars can't agree on what message, if any, Hendrix's screaming guitar and ballistic feedback was trying to deliver.

Astor Piazzolla (1921-92)
Le Grand Tango (1990)
As a young man, Astor Piazzolla learned to play the bandoneon, the Argentinian accordion-like instrument that uses buttons rather than a keyboard, and he became a virtuoso on it. But his musical path was not at first clear: he gave concerts, made a film soundtrack, and created his own bands before a desire for wider expression drove him to the study of classical music. He received a grant to study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and it was that great teacher who advised him to follow his passion for the Argentinean tango as the source for his own music.
Piazzolla returned to Argentina and gradually evolved his own style, one that combines the tango, jazz and classical music. In his hands, the tango-which had deteriorated into a soft, popular form-was revitalized. Piazzolla transformed this old Argentinean dance into music capable of a variety of expression and fusing sharply-contrasted moods: his tangos are by turn fiery, melancholy, passionate, tense, violent, lyric and always driven by an endless supply of rhythmic energy.
Le Grand Tango, which Piazzolla wrote specifically for cello and piano, is one of his few chamber works and one of his few pieces of "classical" music, though it too is driven by the varying moods and vitality of the tango. This is a big piece, and it has become a great favorite of cellists-there are a number of recordings available. Le Grand Tango is episodic in structure: moments of lilting languor alternate with impassioned sequences full of energy, and finally this Tango rushes to its fiery close on a great upward glissando.

Mason Bates (1977- )
Red River (2007)
Combining a chamber ensemble with the rythmic power and drama of electronics, Red River traces the journey of the great Colorado River to its various destinations in the Southwest - Las Vegas, the Grand Canyon, and ending in the California desert.
Various streams accumulate as the runoff from the Rockies builds into a formidable body of water and are united in the work’s second movement, Interstate 70, which falls into a bumpy and capricious ride. In the lyrical third movement we find ourselves floating high above the river in the red rocks of Arizona’s Grand Canyon. This ponderous movement ends abruptly with the arrival of enormous machinery, and the ensuing Hoover Slates Vegas movement uses all manner of industrial beats in the electronics to conjure up the building of the Hoover Dam. Exhausted by all this human activity, the river (and the piece) moves to its final resting place, the huge Sonoran Desert in the southeastern California.

Radiohead (1985- )
Karma Police (1997)
Airbag (1997)
Radiohead are an English alternative rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (vocals, guitars, piano), Jonny Greenwood (guitars, keyboards, other instruments), Ed O'Brien (guitars, backing vocals), Colin Greenwood (bass, synthesizers) and Phil Selway (drums, percussion).
Radiohead released their first single, "Creep", in 1992. The song was initially unsuccessful, but it became a worldwide hit several months after the release of their debut album, Pablo Honey (1993). Radiohead's popularity rose in the United Kingdom with the release of their second album, The Bends (1995). Radiohead's third album, OK Computer (1997), propelled them to greater international fame. Featuring an expansive sound and themes of modern alienation, OK Computer is often acclaimed as a landmark record of the 1990s.
Kid A (2000) and Amnesiac (2001) marked an evolution in Radiohead's musical style, as the group incorporated experimental electronic music, Krautrock and jazz influences. Hail to the Thief (2003), a mix of guitar-driven rock, electronics and lyrics inspired by war, was the band's final album for their major record label, EMI. Radiohead independently released their seventh album, In Rainbows (2007), originally as a digital download for which customers could set their own price, and later in physical form to critical and chart success. Radiohead released their eighth album, The King of Limbs (2011) in a variety of formats.

David Lang (1957- )
Press Release (1991)
I wrote Press Release in 1991 for Evan Ziporyn. When you compose for one person, you can't get all the colors that you'd have with an ensemble or orchestra, so you have to imagine some sort of interesting problem. I wanted to do something that was really rhythmic. The original idea behind this piece was that of a high melody alternating with a low bass line, so that you get a high pop and a low pop switching back and forth as fast as possible, and these two worlds coexist. I wanted the upper melody to be recognizable and the bottom bass line to be recognizable, to be a real bass line, a driving funk thing. In classical music, the bass is only there to support the melody, which is where the action is. But the bass line is the place where funk music really shines. Who has the best bass lines in the business? I am a big James Brown fan, and, I thought, if you want a bass line, you got to go to James. So I made the key changes sound like James Brown. Because of the way the bass clarinet works, I thought you'd have to press the keys down to make all the low notes, and you'd release the keys to make the high notes....Press Release. I was really proud of myself because I thought I had made this funny joke, and then of course Evan said, "You know, a lot of those high notes you play with all your fingers down, and a lot of those low notes you play with all your fingers up." But I didn't think it was worth it to change the title. - David Lang

Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) (1971- )
Filter (2001)
Hip Hop Etude #10 (2006)
Having carved a reputation for himself as an innovative composer, performer, violinist, and band leader, Haitian-American artist Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR) melds his classical music roots with his own cultural references and vibrant musical imagination. Proving that he’s "about as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets" (New York Times), DBR is perhaps the only composer who has collaborated and performed with Philip Glass, Cassandra Wilson, Bill T. Jones, and Lady Gaga. He's received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), the Library of Congress, and the sports channel ESPN. He's appeared on American Idol (FOX), America’s Assignment (CBS Evening News), E:60 (ESPN) and been voted one of the "Top 100 New Yorkers" (New York Resident), "Top 40 Under 40 business people" (Crain’s New York Business), "Top 5 Tomorrow’s Newsmakers" (1010 WINS Radio), and spotlighted as a "New Face of Classical Music" (Esquire Magazine).

John Mackey (1973- )
Breakdown Tango (2000)
Commissioned by the Parsons Dance Company, premiered June 13-18, 2000 at The Joyce Theater, New York, NY and dedicated to Garrick Zoeter of the Elm City Ensemble. This work is also called "Dementia" and the ballet is called "Promenade." This work (called "darkly dramatic" by the New York Times, and "an appealing, and at times wonderfully trashy piece" by The Clarinet Magazine), has a virtuostic beginning and ending, with a peculiar tango sandwiched in the middle. It's a bit more jagged than my earlier pieces. The choreography, by Robert Battle, is really, really fantastically odd. Gramophone Magazine described the work by saying, "Certainly one would be hard pressed to find a better piece than John Mackey's Breakdown Tango..." This work was the source of material for "Redline Tango." - John Mackey

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friends in town

Tuesday had some great visitors to San Antonio - including a former classmate of mine, Anne Akiko Meyers!

Anne signed autographs of her new cd, Seasons...Dreams at Antonio Strad Violins.  It was nice catching up and meeting her husband. So glad they are in Austin now!
David Mollenauer

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

10 things about sound

Some great insights about Sound from Julian Treasure:
1.) You are a chord.
2.) One definition of health may be that that chord is in complete harmony.
3.) We see one octave; we hear ten.
4.) We adopt listening positions.
5.) Noise harms and even kills.
6.) Schizophonia is unhealthy.
7. Compressed music makes you tired.
8. Headphone abuse is creating deaf kids.
9. Natural sound and silence are good for you.
10. Sound can heal.

More about TED, click here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our friend David Heuser

SA Composer chosen by American Composer's Orchestra

American Composers Orchestra (ACO) announces Playing It UNsafe,
 the first and only professional research and development lab to support the 
creation of cutting-edge new American orchestral music through 
no-holds-barred experimentation, encouraging composers to do anything
 but “play it safe.” The composers participating in Playing It UNsafe 
are Sean Friar, David Heuser, Joan La Barbara, Laura Schwendinger, 
and Henry Threadgill, selected from a national search for their willingness
 to experiment and stretch their own musical sensibilities, and their ability
 to test the limits of the orchestra. Playing It UNsafe grew out of ACO’s 
ongoing mission to commission and perform new music that expands 
the range of possibilities for – and challenges convention notions 
about – orchestral music.
Playing It UNsafe is a season-long initiative that includes a unique
 incubation process of laboratory workshops and public readings, 
and collaborative feedback, many open to the public. Audiences will
 have their first opportunity to see and hear the composers’ 
works-in-progress at the opening lab workshop, free of charge 
(no reservations required), on Monday, October 18 from 2-4:30pm
 at the JCC in Manhattan (334 Amsterdam Avenue). Subsequent lab
 workshops open to the public will take place on Thursday, December 9
 (2-4:30pm); Saturday, January 29 (2-5pm), Tuesday, March 1 (2-4:30pm),
 and Thursday, March 3 (2-4:30pm). Playing It UNsafe will culminate on 
Friday, March 4, 2011 at 7:30pm with a concert featuring all of the “unsafe” 
new works at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, conducted by ACO Music 
Director George Manahan.
None of the new pieces developed for Playing It UNsafe will be conventional
 or typical orchestral fare. Sean Friar’s Clunker Concerto will be for a 
percussion ensemble playing a junked car with the orchestra; saxophonist
 and composer/improviser Henry Threadgill asks orchestra members to 
improvise and interact at an extremely high level, yielding a new strategy 
for the conductor to lead the orchestra in No Gate, No White Trenches, 
Butterfly Effect; vocalist and composer Joan La Barbara’s sound painting
 for voice and orchestra, In solitude this fear is lived, will utilize orchestra
 members placed throughout the entire concert hall; Laura Schwendinger 
will collaborate with her lighting-designer cousin Leni Schwendinger to 
fuse music and visuals into a seamless mix; and David Heuser’s Dysfunctional
 Families will pit orchestral instrument families against each other in an 
uprising that threatens to overthrow the conductor.
Playing It UNsafe is unusual in that it does away with the expectations 
often associated with orchestral premieres that can squelch composers’ 
creative impulses – limited rehearsal time, restrictive instrumental possibilities,
 pre-conceived programmatic or thematic ideas for concerts – and most
 importantly, the overwhelming pressure on composers to do something “safe.”
Playing It UNsafe will feature Orchestra Underground, ACO’s groundbreaking
 small orchestra ensemble that seeks to redefine orchestra music by embracing
 a wide gamut of musical styles, unusual instrumentations and spatial orientations
 of musicians, technological innovations, and multimedia/multidisciplinary 
collaborations. Since its launch in 2004, Orchestra Underground has 
commissioned and premiered nearly 50 cutting-edge new works. The program
 is a major expansion of a pilot program ACO undertook two seasons ago, 
and a desire by the orchestra to serve as a catalyst for new ideas within 
the orchestra community.

About the Playing It UNsafe Composer David Heuser's Dysfunctional 
Dysfunctional Families is a piece about the orchestra reacting to itself, 
where the supremacy of the conductor is undermined as the top-down hierarchy
 of the orchestra meets grass-roots uprisings, and where the audience finds 
themselves literally in the middle of inter- and intra-family battles. The piece 
will marry orchestral music with theatrical elements, particularly those that 
break the fourth wall. Performers fight within their section as well as across 
sections in what ends up being an all-out war for control of the symphony. 
The conflicts play out physically, with performers moving to different parts 
of the stage as their allegiances change. The conductor strives always to be 
in command of the ensemble, but, like war everywhere, he might put down a 
rebellion in the brass only to turn and find out the strings in an uproar.
David Heuser’s music has been called “thoughtful, beautiful, and wonderfully
 made” (San Antonio Express-News), “all-American music at its most dynamic
 and visceral” (Houston Chronicle), and “just the sort of music classical music 
needs more of” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette). Heuser considers himself a musical 
storyteller. His most characteristic works are rhythmically active, strongly melodic,
 and often deal with extremes of tempo, dynamics and register. Heuser began
composing almost immediately after his first piano lessons at the age of seven.
He attended the Eastman School of Music and then the Indiana University
School of Music, where he received his doctorate. He is now a Professor at the
University of Texas at San Antonio teaching music composition and theory,
and electronic music. He has received commissions from such ensembles as
the San Antonio Symphony, the New York Youth Symphony, SOLI Chamber Ensemble,
 and the Texas Music Festival Orchestra.

About ACO
Now entering its 34th year, American Composers Orchestra is the only orchestra 
in the world dedicated to the creation, performance, preservation, and promulgation
 of music by American composers. ACO makes the creation of new opportunities 
for American composers and new American orchestral music its central purpose. 
Through concerts at Carnegie Hall and other venues, recordings, internet and radio
 broadcasts, educational programs, New Music Readings, and commissions, ACO
 identifies today’s brightest emerging composers, champions prominent established
 composers as well as those lesser-known, and increases regional, national, and 
international awareness of the infinite variety of American orchestral music, 
reflecting geographic, stylistic, and temporal diversity. ACO also serves as an 
incubator of ideas, research, and talent, as a catalyst for growth and change among
 orchestras, and as an advocate for American composers and their music.
To date, ACO has performed music by more than 600 American composers, 
including 200 world premieres and newly commissioned works. Among the orchestra’s 
innovative programs have been Sonidos de las Américas, six annual festivals devoted 
to Latin American composers and their music; Coming to America, a program immersing
 audiences in the ongoing evolution of American music through the work of immigrant
 composers; Orchestra Tech, a long-term initiative to integrate new digital technologies
 in the symphony orchestra; Improvise!, a festival devoted to the exploration of 
improvisation and the orchestra; Playing it Unsafe, a new laboratory for the research 
and development of experimental new works for orchestra; and Orchestra Underground, 
ACO’s entrepreneurial cutting-edge orchestral ensemble that embraces new technology, 
eclectic instruments, influences, and spatial orientation of the orchestra, new experiments
 in the concert format, and multimedia and multi-disciplinary collaborations.
Extending its mission beyond New York City, ACO launched EarShot in 2008. EarShot 
is a multi-institutional network that assists orchestras around the country in new 
music readings and composer development opportunities. EarShot’s recent programs 
include new music readings for emerging composers with the Nashville Symphony, 
Memphis Symphony, New York Youth Symphony and Colorado Symphony Orchestra.
 More information can be found at
Among the honors ACO has received are special awards from the American Academy
 of Arts and Letters and from BMI recognizing the orchestra’s outstanding contribution
 to American music. ASCAP has awarded its annual prize for adventurous programming 
to ACO 32 times, singling out ACO as “the orchestra that has done the most for new 
American music in the United States,” including the 2008 ASCAP Morton Gould Award 
for Innovative Programming. ACO received the inaugural METLife Award for Excellence
 in Audience Engagement, and a proclamation from the New York City Council. ACO 
recordings are available on ARGO, CRI, ECM, Point, Phoenix USA, MusicMasters, 
Nonesuch, Tzadik, New World Records, and More information
 about American Composers Orchestra is available online at

Hear David's Catching Updrafts
on our Season opener,
For the Record!