A musical soirée

Lately my lovely wife has been coming home merrily singing the praises of two new piano solos she’ll be performing at NYU’s Black Box Theater, 82 Washington Square East in New York on Sunday, February 23 — they’re difficult but divine, she insists, and promises a good time. She’s never wrong.

The big piece on the program (which is called American Spectral: Works for Piano and Electronics, by the way) is the hour-long “Music for Piano with Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators,” a new “extended mix” of a shorter 2010 work by highly-regarded avant-garde tunesmith Alvin Lucier. Marilyn will raise the curtain with Philadelphian Ellen Fishman‘s “Ruptures” (2018-19). These works, Marilyn says, “explore how technology changes our sense of time, consciousness, and sonic reality.”

Admission? Gratis. The trouble begins at eight o’clock. I’m told that there’s a new-fangled thing called social media that’s taking the place of the hardworking press agent, so if you visit the Facebook page for the event, please “like” it (whatever that is) and “share” it with your “friends.” Me, I’ve got to get my tuxedo to the dry cleaners; the composers will be present, after all.

I confess to you that I use the word “solo” advisedly here; she will be accompanied by some electric gewgaws. But they aren’t human, and I’m going to maintain my distinction between man (or, in this case, woman) and machine, so matter how complicated the box of wires is. After the show, we’ll all head out to the local tavern (except the computers, of course), where we’ll explore how wine and vodka change our sense of time, consciousness, and sonic reality, though I doubt the sensations will be quite as profound.

He’s funny that way

Sometimes you just need a good song to start the morning. Below, Eden & John’s East River String Band offer up “He’s Funny That Way,” the 1929 standard by Neil Moret and Richard Whiting, from their most recent album Coney Island Baby. (Sure, the original title was “She’s Funny That Way,” but what’s a pronoun or two between friends?) That’s Eden Brower on vocals, John Heneghan on guitar, and special guest R. Crumb on ukelele. More about the band here, and you can purchase the album itself, as well as so many other ERSB albums, at their Ebay page here. I recommend you do so today.

A good time will be had by all

I’ve sung the praises of (and been inspired to take up the guitar by) Eden & John’s East River String Band before. Unfortunately their local appearances are rare, but you’ll have a chance to see and hear Eden and John (as well as Ernesto Gomez) on Tuesday, November 5, at the Jalopy Tavern in Brooklyn. The trouble begins at 8:30, though if you miss it, you’ll have another chance to catch them on December 10. Join them for a casual evening of fine American music — stretch out your legs and stay awhile. To whet your appetite, listen to “He’s Funny That Way,” the 1929 standard by Neil Moret and Richard Whiting, from their most recent album Coney Island Baby below; that’s Eden Brower on vocals, John Heneghan on guitar, and special guest R. Crumb on ukelele. More information about the lovely evening can be found on Facebook.

Paul Nauert: Memory and Music

Paul Nauert (1966-2019)

My lovely wife Marilyn Nonken will present Paul Nauert: Memory and Music (1966-2019), a tribute to the composer who passed away earlier this year, at Spectrum in Brooklyn on Sunday, October 27. (She’ll be presenting the same program at Brandeis University on October 19.) Her program features music written specifically for Marilyn by Nauert and his friends and acquaintances, along with “farewell pieces” by other composers. It will include:

  • Olivier Messiaen: Cloches d’angoisses et larmes d’adieu (1929)
  • Richard Carrick: La touche sonore sous l’eau (2015)
  • Yu-Hui Chang: Lonebird (2006)
  • Eric Chasalow: A Solution in Search of a Problem (2015)
  • David Rakowski: Billie Sizzle (2013), Solid Goldie (2009) (these two etudes were written specifically for our daughters)
  • Paul Nauert: Episodes & Elegies (2010)
  • Michael Levinas: Les larmes des sons (2012)

You can read a brief obituary about Paul Nauert at the Columbia University web site.

I was honored to attend the premiere of Episodes & Elegies when Marilyn (for whom it was written) performed it at NYU in 2011. The composer was in attendance. By then, Nauert had been living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or “Lou Gehrig’s Disease”) for two years and was confined to a wheelchair. The diagnosis had a profound effect on Nauert’s compositional style. He wrote:

My music changed in response to the disease. I explored new ideas, new techniques, and points of contact with other music I love (Mel Powell, Harrison Birtwistle—J.S. Bach, in far more abstract terms) out of a sense that these things couldn’t be postponed until later. My customary algorithmic techniques gave way to more intuitive processes, and elaborate compositional designs were replaced by patterns I could retain fully in my memory, as the physical act of composition grew slower, and as my external workspace became limited to my view of the computer screen positioned in front of my eyes by an assistant. No more sketching on paper!

In the album notes for A Distant Music, Amy Sohn continued:

Nauert was impressed with what he has called Nonken’s fearlessness “in the face of complex rhythms and finger-tangling passage work,” and as a result, he wrote “an uncharacteristically dense and extroverted score.” For the new piece, Nauert placed a greater emphasis on lyrical writing, in order to highlight Nonken’s “equally brilliant abilities as a colorist”—while sacrificing none of the virtuosic demands of the earlier work. Episodes and Elegies, Nauert writes, “is structured around two relatively somber elegies. The first of these is spun out of long, expressive lines, and it suggests a mood of quiet resignation. The second is pieced together from much more fragmentary material, and it offers glimpses of anger and defiance. Four shorter and generally livelier episodes are distributed before and between the two elegies, and a prologue and epilogue frame the entire cycle. These shorter movements often play with different rates of pulsation and with contrasting textures and types of keyboard figuration.”

Spectrum has no advance ticket sales; tickets will be available at the door on the evening of the performance, which begins at 7:00 p.m. It’s located at 70 Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn.

Below, Marilyn plays Elegy I from Nauert’s Episodes & Elegies, which she recorded for his album A Distant Music. Amy Beal’s full album notes can be found here.