četvrtak, 28. veljače 2013.

Nadia Sirota - Baroque (2013) + yMusic - Beautiful Mechanical

Sirota nije skladatelj nego na violi izvodi tuđe stvari. To je zapravo super život, surađuješ s talentiranim prijateljima (Nico Muhly, Daníel Bjarnason, Paul Corley, Judd Greenstein, Missy Mazzoli, Shara Worden...) i onda naručiš od njih po skladbu za vlastiti album.
Sirota je i članica indie-klasičarskog seksteta yMusic. 
Uređuje i radio emisiju u kojoj predstavlja atonalnu muziku.


There is no Bach on Baroque; no Handel, Telemann or Vivaldi. This is the music of the 21st Century, not the 17th, and the composers are violist Nadia Sirota’s friends—who just happen to include some of the most respected musicians of our own moment.
The six pieces on Baroque were written with Sirota’s distinctive sound in mind and recorded (by her longtime collaborators at Bedroom Community) to exaggerate the idiosyncracies of her tone. Fellow labelmates Nico Muhly, Daníel Bjarnason and Paul Corley provide three pieces, while composers Judd Greenstein, Shara Worden and Missy Mazzoli provide the other three.
Baroque , as the title of the album, references a number of things; the concerto form - balancing a soloist against ensemble accompaniment - is an invention of the Baroque era, so while there are concerti here, of a sort, they’re concerti of a decidedly more portable variety. Both Judd Greenstein’s “In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves”, whose intimate ensemble accompaniment opens the album with a different paradigm of “solo” versus “tutti” than more famous efforts in the form, and the self-aware symphonics of Daníel Bjarnason’s
“Sleep Variations”, which closes the disc, build Sirota’s virtual backup band from the overdubbed sound of her own playing. There’s also something very Baroque about the style of pieces like “From the Invisible to the Visible”, by Shara Worden (Clogs, My Brightest Diamond), and “Tooth and Nail” by Missy Mazzoli, two radically different pieces that are both about the elaborate ornamentation of slowly moving harmonies.
Sirota’s approach to the instrument owes something to recent trends in Baroque playing. She can keep her bow-hand light and her left hand still, for a gin-dry sound. It’s a sound prized by, among others, Nico Muhly who thinks of Sirota as his most trusted interpreter—another reason being the sort of rhythmic precision his “Étude 3” demands, with an almost wicked glee. Paul Corley creates a piece to which timbre is so central that the voice of Sirota’s instrument seems as much a part of the composition as the notes she plays. His “Tristan da Cunha”—dark, extreme, and alarmingly detailed—is “Baroque” in the sense of “Brueghel-esque.”
Which leads us to the one thing all of these pieces have in common: that level of detail. Words like “complex,” applied to music, too often suggest a level of intricacy designed to confound, whereas each of the works Sirota brings together here offers an audible clarity of purpose. So let’s instead say that these works—to whatever extent they may recall the Baroque—are instead exquisitely baroque, each concerto, miniature or soundscape realized with extravagant intricacy.

1. "In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves" - composed by Judd Greenstein
2. "From the Invisible to the Visible" - composed by Shara Worden
3. "Tooth and Nail" - composed by Missy Mazzoli
4. "Étude 3" - composed by Nico Muhly
5. "Tristan da Cunha" - composed by Paul Corley
6. "Sleep Variations" - composed by Daníel Bjarnason - http://bedroomcommunity.bandcamp.com/album/baroque

Though the title of Nadia Sirota's sophomore album, Baroque, might suggest that it's a collection of early classical works by the likes of Telemann, Vivaldi, and Purcell, the album is instead a collection of six new compositions by contemporary composers. If there's one thing that ties the title to baroque music, it's the intricate nature of the album's pieces, which find Sirota playing the role of soloist but also functioning as a multi-tracked mini-ensemble (seven violas in one piece and eleven in another). It's a contemporary project in another key sense, too, in that, her viola often appears within arrangements featuring synthesizers and electronic programming.
Produced by Sirota, Valgeir Sigurðsson, and Paul Evans, the album is jointly released by New Amsterdam Records, which issued her debut album First Things First in 2009, and Bedroom Community. In the spirit of that partnership, the composers featured on the album are associated with both labels: Judd Greenstein and Missy Mazzoli to New Amsterdam, for example, and Nico Muhly, Daníel Bjarnason, and Paul Corley to Bedroom Community.
A bravura, ten-minute performance that finds Sirota performing seven separate viola parts with impassioned zeal, Greenstein's “In Teaching Others We Teach Ourselves” offers an ideal entry point to the album in enabling the Juilliard graduate and yMusic member to display her considerable technical gifts as well as showcase the affecting emotional quality she brings to her playing. A markedly different timbral character emerges in Shara Worden's “From The Invisible To The Visible” when Westminster Abbey assistant organist James McVinnie accompanies Sirota. A dream-like mood is generated, due both to the softly gleaming tones of the organ and the viola's supplicating expressions. In similar manner, Sirota's agile lines are heard against a backdrop of keyboard chords and patterns in Muhly's “Étude 3,” a five-minute setting whose lyrical character suggests some tangential connection to the classical-baroque style.
Urgency and tension permeate Missy Mazzoli's “Tooth and Nail” in the electronic rhythm patterns that patter insistently in the background, even if passages surface where the rhythms recede to let the viola's sinuous flow dominate. An overt electronic character infuses “Tristan Da Cunha” by Corley (whose recent album Disquiet was a 2012 standout) to such a degree that the piece assumes the character of an ethereal, minimalistic meditation over which Sirota layers rapid patterns so aggressive they verge on violent. Baroque is capped by Bjarnason's “Sleep Variations,” a fourteen-minute viola concerto that sees Sirota weaving eleven different viola lines into a wondrous display of viola technique and emotional expression. Piano and percussion appear also, but the piece is largely a dramatic Sirota showcase of wide-ranging moods and alternating solo and ensemble passages. Of all of the album's compositions, it's the one that would likely be the most natural pick for an in-concert classical performance.
Sirota's profile is sure to be raised by this exceptional release but also through her associations with not one but now two labels. Having recently appeared on Muhly's Drones and Sigurðsson's Architecture Of Loss, she has become a Bedroom Community fixture of sorts, which means we probably will be the lucky beneficiaries of more of Sirota's artistry in the future. - www.textura.org/

First Things First (2009)  streaming

Violist Nadia Sirota, one of the leading lights of New York’s “indie-classical” scene, takes center stage with her debut recording, first things first, issued by New Amsterdam Records on May 19. Hailed by Time Out New York as one of New York’s “brightest, busiest players,” Nadia has earned praise for her “command and eloquence” (Boston Globe), as well as her “energy, fluidity, [and] ear for electronic coloration” (New York Times). The twenty-something musician has commissioned and premiered works by some of the most talented composers of her generation, particularly the three whose music appears on first things first: Marcos Balter, Judd Greenstein, and Nico Muhly. The disc comprises five solo tracks plus Muhly’s “Duet No. 1″ (with cellist Clarice Jensen) and Greenstein’s ”The Night Gatherers”, featuring Sirota and The Chiara String Quartet.
The music on first things first ranges from Balter’s experiments in color and texture in “Ut” and ”Live Water” to Muhly’s idiosyncratic takes on Minimalism (“Duet No. 1″, ”Etudes I and IA”) to Greenstein’s tense, insistent Escape and lush, elegiac The Night Gatherers. Says Nadia, “For me this album is a kind of summation of projects and friendships that started in my early twenties. Nico I met at school, and Judd and Marcos were both Fellows at the Tanglewood Music Center with me… All of these personal connections make this record really special for me, but more importantly, all three of these guys have really strong, individual voices. Their music is innovative, and yet feels timely and inevitable. I am so pleased to interpret their work, and I am thrilled to release this first record.”
first things first has been praised as a “collection of vital, imaginative recent scores” and Sirota’s playing “vigorous” by The New York Times, who also called the compelling performance of Greenstein’s “The Night Gatherers” “rich” and “haunting.” The album has also been cited as an “excellent debut … that’s imaginative and often thrilling” (Time Out Chicago) by the viola’s brilliant and quirky new champion” (eMusic). - www.newamsterdamrecords.com/

Who: I'm Nadia Sirota, and I play the viola. I live in New York and have spent a lot of time recently recording in Iceland; I've got a big nasty crush on that country. I grew up along the east coast of the US as the kid of musician academic itinerants and moved to New York when I was seventeen to go to Juilliard for six years and acquire two degrees. I've lived in NYC since, though I'm moving progressively further south and east.

What: I don't write music at all, just interpret other people's ideas, which I think is the way that I am most useful. I am super-selfish in that I only play pieces that were written for me explicitly. I am very lucky to have friends who write brilliant music, and I love sharing that stuff with other people. I just made a new record called Baroque that is predominantly for multi-tracked viola and electronic textures and includes music by Judd Greenstein, Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Missy Mazzoli, Nico Muhly, Paul Corley, and Daníel Bjarnason, who are all wonderful. I got to collaborate on the production with Paul Evans and Valgeir Sigurdsson, who make everything sound all jewelry-like and 3D.

When: I'm going on a little US tour with Valgeir Sigurdsson and Shahzad Ismaily, and we'll be playing stuff from the record as well as all of Valgeir's CD The Architecture of Loss. There's info about the tour at bedroomcommunity.net.

Currently: My album Baroque comes out this month on Bedroom Community and New Amsterdam. I also play in yMusic, which is a sextet that works both in concert music and with songwriters. We've released a record called Beautiful Mechanical.

Musical philosophy: I love live shows and mistakes and emotions and electronics that sound human.

Influences and inspirations: I grew up in a hyper-modern-leaning New Classical Music household and got buckets of like Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, and George Perle from a very young age (I think that made me super into intervals?) I love nasty, wide-vibrato romantic recordings from like the ‘30s and ‘40s, and I am obsessed with the violist Kim Kashkashian. I didn't really hear any non-classical stuff, and in fact feared synthesizers (I wasn't able to get through Neverending Story until last year) until late middle school, when I fell hard for Nine Inch Nails. In college I found Glass's Einstein on the Beach, and I went twice when it was at BAM this year. I love Meredith Monk, Moondog, and Thomas Ades, and Britten! Britten is so good. - www.textura.org/

If you haven’t yet bought a record from New Amsterdam, start here. This is the most modern comp thing I’ve heard from the label, and I hope it signals more of the same.
What makes it work so well? By choosing pieces (for solo or almost-solo viola) by just three composers, each occupying similar stylistic territories, the disc gains strength from consistency. But that’s not it. The pieces themselves are pretty: light, rhythmic, tuneful, full of feeling. But that’s not it, either. In fact, that could be the recipe for a much duller, much more grey album than this.
No, what really makes it work are the chinks, the tiny bright points like distant city lights in the January dawn. The shape of Nico Muhly’s Duet no.1 ‘Chorale Pointing Downwards’, a strange spiral form that seems to get lighter as it drags itself earthwards would be one. The almost-not-thereness, as though retreating over and over behind a screen, of Marcos Balter’s Live Water would be another. The emotional trajectories of these pieces – which on the surface are simple trinkets – are really something. It isn’t all perfect: Muhly has an obviously excellent technique but I wish he would take more risks and not stick so close to his influences, and Judd Greenstein’s The Night Gatherers drops focus and starts sounding like other people (here Adams, here Vaughan Williams). Which is a shame, because the fully Greensteiny bits (as on Escape) I like.
And Sirota’s playing is faultless. It’s not easy to pull off a full CD of music like this. There aren’t many virtuoso passages to hide behind, it’s all exposed, all raw. Even more impressive is her willingness to follow the music’s lead and hide a little of herself. Her playing gains in strength from this anti-diva mode.
Greenstein and, of course, Muhly (who was at the Roundhouse this week), have plaudits enough to be known on this side of the Atlantic, but Balter’s music was the surprise for me: beautiful, full of tiny surprises, little bits of grit amongst the comfortable and expected. It’s a perfect encapsulation of everything that is best about this CD. You can get your copy (and free sample tracks) here.

Update: Sirota’s new radio show, ‘Hope Springs Atonal’, launches on Monday 1st February on New York’s WQXR (streamed online at http://www.wqxr.org/Q2):

Each weekday at 1pm/1am ET, Sirota, a classically trained violinist, will present a daily excursion into the high octane world of post-tonal music. From Xenakis to Stockhausen, Messiaen to Mackey, Sirota will provide an accessible entrée into atonal music, serving as a guide and fellow traveler through a still-largely uncharted musical terrain, ripe for exploration


yMusic, Beautiful Mechanical (2011) streaming


[Music by Ryan Lott, Annie Clark, Shara Worden, Sarah Snider, Judd Greenstein, and Gabriel Kahane]

If you're an indie rocker in need of chamber instruments, odds are you'll end up hiring a member of yMusic. The quietly ubiquitous sextet has spent its three-year existence amassing cross-genre collaborations like so many passport stamps: you've heard them, wittingly or not, playing with Bon Iver, Björk, Grizzly Bear, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire, the National, Vampire Weekend-- you get the idea. But they also perform as a more traditional contemporary-classical ensemble, and on Beautiful Mechanical, their first proper full-length, they mix up the two worlds, slotting compositions from St. Vincent's Annie Clark and Son Lux alongside new works from young composer colleagues. The album's existence is a feat of networking savvy and determination-- it was funded via Kickstarter page-- but the music itself is sadly hit-or-miss, underlining a melancholy truth about bridging genre divides: It results in empty press-release fodder as often as it produces luminous, surprising new music.
Son Lux's titular work, "Beautiful Mechanical", lands somewhere blankly in the middle. Son Lux is no dabbler: He studied composition at Indiana University. But his work is somehow both antic and utterly frozen-- its gestures twitter away in different corners of the compositional space without engaging thematically. The work, which does some sly things with missing beats and rhythmic emphases, is technically assured, but it feels like the sort of forgettable, frictionless, minimalist sketch you can currently hear too many of at downtown-NYC new-music concerts.
Annie Clark fares significantly better. In fact, her piece, "Proven Badlands", might be the most beguiling and multi-layered composition on the album. On the basis of it alone, Clark could easily slip outside of her indie rock clubhouse entirely for an album's worth of chamber-music miniatures. "Badlands" begins with a swan-necked glide of a bassoon line, a thrice-digested memory of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". Cello and flute hop lightly into the frame. Then, the instruments clear out a space for an unexpected finger-picked acoustic guitar. Interesting things keep happening: A muted trumpet calls out a yearning tritone, the sharp, ear-troubling interval found at the heart of West Side Story. Bugling horns erupt into a locked-in pattern, an arch almost-quote from some lost big-band record. The work is a lively jumble of jazzy-French flavors, strongly suggesting that Clark's education in the classical canon made a little extra time for Debussy, Milhaud, and other jazz-age cosmopolitans.
Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond also shows up to hand yMusic two sketches-- one vaguely Eastern, one vaguely African. Both are spry bundles of tiny noises. Worden's rich singing voice, which lit last year's Penelope, isn't here, but her pieces are imbued with the same lamplight glow. They are minor, but lively. Sarah Kirkland Snider, the composer of Penelope, revisits its agitated sound world with "Daughter of the Waves", a nine-minute swirl of muted anxiety. Judd Greenstein's "Clearing, Dawn, Dance" starts with a loping figure in the woodwinds and sends it rippling expertly outward through the ensemble, like small bobbing boats in a wake-- tracking its movement and hearing how Greenstein obscures it proves absorbing listening all on its own.
yMusic are part of a resourceful, engaged cluster of young classical musicians who are furiously networking a full-blown scene into existence. Collectively, they represent the movement's best qualities: broad-minded, ambitious, eagerly collaborative. However, Beautiful Mechanical also hints at some of the still-growing scene's nagging limitations: As exciting as all this activity is to behold, the marketing heat it generates carries over into its music only about half of the time. There are delightful moments scattered throughout, but the overall impression is of a small box of baubles, modest and lovely but inessential.- Jayson Greene

 “yMusic—named for the polyglot generation from which its six hip virtuosi hail—turned out an arresting debut album on New Amsterdam, Beautiful Mechanical. The seven pieces combine in the perfect proportion of weighty to catchy, inspiring obsessive repeat listenings.” - Amanda MacBlane, Time Out New York
As “Beautiful Mechanical” shows, yMusic’s own sound is built on more than its members’ technical prowess. It’s full of whimsy, motion and percussion even though nary a drum is present. The sextet demonstrates its affection for the rhythmic requirements of rock and pop even when it’s in the guise of new music, a genre that has been dubbed “indie classical” or, as Ms. Sirota put it, “chamber music with a band aesthetic.”- Jim Fusilli, Wall Street Journal
“The working methods of yMusic quietly repudiate one of the more stultifying aspects of classical tradition: the obsession with fidelity to the written score, in which the performer lives to serve the composer. With yMusic the performers act as co-conspirators in the compositional process, interacting with the music as a living document, not an abstract ideal. The flexibility of the yMusic players puts them at the forefront of a rapidly changing performance culture… The group has set the bar high.” - William Robin, New York Times
“These young, classically-trained dropouts have all the prestige and virtuosity of classical music degrees with all the attitude and energy of an indie rock band, and yMusic is no different. These guys can sound as pleasant as a cuddly pop song at times and then without a flinch guide you into swirls of tumultuous avant-garde. That is both in compliment to the ensemble’s committed musicianship and to the composers/musicians who wrote tracks on Beautiful Mechanical. The centerpiece of the album, “Clearing, Dawn, Dance,” is where yMusic really soars though. The prolific Brooklyn-based composer Judd Greenstein really gives yMusic something to shine with. The 10-minute piece takes the ensemble in a number of directions, but yMusic always seems to one step ahead of the pages and pages of notes that fly by.” -Luke Larsen, Paste Magazine
“Even if you don’t typically explore instrumental or chamber music, you will want to discover Beautiful Mechanical. This is the sound that defines a good portion of what is indie music in the 21st Century, and that’s a “beautiful” thing. Embrace the music of yMusic…” - Noisevox
“The record exhibits a blend of instrumental voices that coalesce in a tightly knit, luminous synchrony that is exceedingly rare at such a stage, and in fact is difficult to achieve for even some well-seasoned companies. It’s as if each of the six players not only can anticipate what the others are thinking and thus expressing, but is perfectly situated to complement and amplify those sentiments. yMusic thus weaves these seven instrumental pieces with a grace and deftness that is utterly remarkable for its youth, indicating the musical expertise of its players and their adept understanding of the group aesthetic.” - Peter Zimmerman, Glide Magazine
“Sterling performances throughout from yMusic make a persuasive case for the ensemble’s abilities and provide articulate advocacy for the music.” - Michael Quinn, The Classical Review
“yMusic members elevate the seven compositions on Beautiful Mechanical with exquisite ensemble playing. While the album features newly composed music, the compositions are accessible but not cloying, and interesting too is the fact that yMusic eschews electronics for a wholly acoustic sound…[The album’s title] isn’t randomly chosen, as the seeming ease with which the musicians meet the high-wire challenges of the material is rendered all the more impressive given the composition’s intricate makeup… Despite being the products of six composers, the album’s pieces hold together as a unified set, an effect that obviously can be attributed to the consistent group persona yMusic presents throughout the recording.” -  Textura
“All Things Will Unwind” is her third album with My Brightest Diamond, the indie-rock-meets-chamber- folk group built around her singing, songwriting and orchestration…Her chief musical partners on the album are the members of yMusic, a New York chamber ensemble at the heart of the current indie-classical overlap. And the writing is far from ornamental. Each pinprick or flutter or flourish in Ms. Worden’s arrangements manages to feel integral, supporting the songs as well as the singing.” - Nate Chinen, New York Times

 Skin & Bones cover art

yMusic, Skin & Bones

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