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Please support Asphalt Orchestra’s Kickstarter Campaign to fund their new album of the Pixies Surfa Rosa!!!
Asphalt Orchestra is about sound moving through space. Start with 12 outstanding and virtuosic players, mix in wildly creative compositions, spin them around a room, then watch the sparks fly. Now in its fifth year, Asphalt is changing the way contemporary music sounds, looks and smells.
Asphalt Orchestra have commissioned some fantastic composers and arranged many others. We play the music of Goran Bregovich, David Byrne, Frank Zappa, Stew & Heidi Rodewald, Charles Mingus, Tatsuya Yoshida, Meshuggah, Yoko Ono and many more. When it came time for the next big project, they decided to arrange a whole album from start to finish. But which one? After listening to dozens of possibilities while touring in the van, we arrived at a near-unanimous choice. The Pixies. Surfer Rosa…!
Where were you when you first heard the Pixies Surfer Rosa? Whether it was 1988 when the record came out, or just last year or even “not yet,” it’s a stunner, a truly memorable experience. Loved or misunderstood at the time of its release, the album has had an enormous impact on all kinds of music. At first listen, it’s just noisy rock ‘n’ roll, but dig deeper and you find all kinds of innovations and experimentation in the crannies. And great, great songs.
And now we want to share it with the world!
1 week ago
Composed by David Lang — Carnegie Hall’s 2013–2014 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair — love fail is a meditation on the timelessness of love that weaves together details from medieval retellings of the story of Tristan and Isolde with stories from more modern sources, and honors renowned vocal quartet Anonymous 4's longstanding commitment to medieval music with the direct, contemporary approach for which Lang is admired. The all-female quartet is acclaimed worldwide for combining historical scholarship with their singular and magical sound.
The music and libretto pull together narratives of love from such sources as Lydia Davis, Marie de France, Gottfried von Strassburg, Béroul, Thomas of Britain and Richard Wagner. love fail was commissioned by The Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2012 Next Wave Festival, The International Festival of Arts & Ideas, The John F. Kennedy Center Abe Fortas Memorial Fund, The Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, The Wake Forest University/Secrest Artists Series, and Hancher Performances at the University of Iowa.
Since 2012, the piece has been presented at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas (Yale Repertory Theatre, New Haven, CT), UCLA’s Royce Hall, and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 2012 Next Wave Festival. Reviewing the BAM performance for the New York Times, Anthony Tommasini wrote: “It was Mr. Lang’s music, and the ethereal, pure-toned singing of Anonymous 4, that claimed me in the first section of the piece, which begins with the line ‘he was a blessed man.’”
David Lang reflects further on the story behind love fail:
"Why is it that people still like the story of Tristan and Isolde? It has been told repeatedly for almost 1000 years, in many different versions, with all manner of strange details added or changed. “The greatest love story ever!” But why? Of course, there is excitement, drama, love, lust, shame, death, dragons. I think the real reason why is because the love of Tristan and Isolde begins by accident— they drink a love potion. They didn’t mean to drink it, and they didn’t mean to fall in love. They drink and—BAM!—it starts. It is almost a laboratory experiment into what love might be like without any of the complications of how real love begins or works—without the excitement, embarrassment, frustration, guilt or competition present in the courtships of ordinary people.
I thought I might learn something about love if I could explore this in a piece, putting details abstracted from many different retellings of Tristan and Isolde next to texts that are more modern, more recognizable to us, more real.”
3 weeks ago
Trance started after a dream I had in July 1994 while I was in residence at the Djerassi Foundation just south of San Francisco. In the dream I brought my music to an older composer for his comments. The composer was a combination of Gyorgy Ligeti, Louis Andriessen and my own teacher Martin Bresnick. This older composer looked through my scores, one by one, and I could hear in my head the music that he heard in his head as he looked on the scores. It all sounded like Mozart. After each score he shook his head in a discouraging way. Finally he turned to me and said ‘You need to work with larger forces’.
I woke up startled, and the next morning I started work on Trance. I knew right away that this piece was for Icebreaker. I had been working with them for several years and they were everything that every other ensemble was not. The first time I met them they took me to a cottage outside of London where they rehearsed all day long for four days straight. At the end of each day, they would quite rehearsing, and after a group dinner, they would start playing tapes for each other and talk about music. This went on until 4am.
The rehearsal process allowed experimentation with rhythmic figures that were beyond the scope of rhythm as known in Western music. These rhythms were complicated, yet could not be understood in any other way than as a groove or feel. The openness of flexibility of Icebreaker allowed me to imagine music with a strong rhythmic pulse, written down, with no one playing the beat, and no one playing on the beat. The players of Icebreaker have trained themselves to play in independent interlocking units going on simultaneously - like all the different thoughts in one’s head that go on - like being able to hear all the music that going on everywhere in the world, in ones head, at the same time…
– Michael Gordon
3 weeks ago
WQXR - New York Public Radio
Best known as the drummer in the critically-acclaimed rock band Wilco, Glenn Kotche is also an accomplished solo performer and composer. He’s collaborated with Eighth Blackbird, So Percussion, Bang on a Can All-Stars and the Silk Road Ensemble and joined WNYC’s Radiolab on their 2013 tour. His forthcoming record Adventureland features new music for the Kronos Quartet and Eighth Blackbird. February 22, he appears with the ambient chamber ensemble Victoire as part of the Ecstatic Music Festival.
"It’s not a huge shock that this is a percussion-centric playlist. I, of course, initially complied a way-too-long list, so I had to leave off some pretty mind-blowing and life-shaping stuff. But this list is a good introduction to the kind of rhythmically anchored music that I veer towards.
The Ferrari piece is one that I never tire of. It sounds amazing and its combination of tonal colors is mesmerizing.
Some of these selections are so rhythmically dense that they transform into pure sonic beauty such as the piece by Crowell. The same goes for the O’Rourke piece. Like JLA, anywhere Jim lands – he gets it absolutely right. He can do it all and yet he’s still criminally under-appreciated.
It’s incredibly difficult to choose one John Luther Adams piece. He just always hits the mark in so many different areas. He’s a true personal inspiration. In Drums of Winter, we are immersed in a sweeping landscape of rhythm – this is naked power. The Garland piece has something brave and assured about it that just resonates with me. As always, Willy Winant makes the instruments sing.
Lang’s Anvil Chorus is so incredibly melodic and cool even when not in the hands of the absurdly masterful Steve Schick. And the Carter piece for timpani is freakishly inventive - and so much fun to play. It constantly reveals new layers of possibility.
It’s difficult for me to choose any one of the Neuhaus realizations of Cage’s Fontana Mix. They all have their charms and are all light years ahead - as is the Xenakis. Both of these selections sound as fresh as ever.
The Dreyblatt piece simply grooves. It’s intriguing, inviting and warm. I’ve never seen an adverse reaction to this music – I think it’s impossible.
The Reich – like its related works – hits a perfect balance between head and heart. It’s an alluring groove piece that blooms in such a way as to continually draw you in.” – Glenn Kotche
Luc Ferrari - Tautologies 3
David Crowell - Kaleidoscope
David Lang - The Anvil Chorus
John Luther Adams - Earth and the Great Weather: Drums of Winter
Iannis Xenakis - Concret PH
Peter Garland - Nana & Victorio: 2. Dress for War - Enchanted Words
Arnold Dreyblatt - Group Velocity
Jim O’Rourke - I’m Happy
Elliot Carter - Eight Pieces for Four Timpani: VI. March
Steve Reich - The Cave: Typing Music
John Cage/Max Neuhaus - Fontana Mix - Feed
3 weeks ago
And to our many contestants and beyond, don’t despair yet - you can still pick up our other signed test pressing at the Bang on a Can Store, where this week, death speaks on vinyl is just $16!