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11/15/2019 8:00 PM - 11/15/2019 8:00 PM
Bowerbird is pleased to present “Neil Feather: Sound Mechanic” an evening dedicated to the sonic contraptions of Neil Feather, the inventor of such fantastical instruments as “the Wiggler”, “the Nondo”, “Thunderwheels”, “magnapooters”, “Apex Roto-Zither”, and the “Thumbsnake”. The night will feature a performance of a work-in-progress chamber concerto composed for Feather’s instruments alongside the Arcana New Music Ensemble by Philadelphia and New Zealand based composer Rosie Langabeer, with whom Feather collaborates closely in the duo Two To Tutu Too. This will be followed by an improvised set featuring many of Feather’s creations. Opening the evening will be Hannah Rose Nicholas and Samuel Kelder’s Shizuka Duo, performing new works for two violas.
Hannah Rose Nicholas & Samuel Kelder, violas
Rosie Langabeer: IDIOSYNCROPHILIA (work in progress)
Arcana New Music Ensemble
Violin – Russell Kotcher
Viola – Hannah Nicholas
Cello – Erin Busch
Double bass – Josh Machiz
Trombone – RJ McGhee
Trombone – Dan Blacksberg
Bassoon – Dominic Panunto
Percussion 1 – Andy Thierauf
Percussion 2 – Alyssa Resh
Feather Instruments: Ashley Tini
Feather Instruments: Julius Masri
Feather Instruments: Neil Feather
Neil Feather and friends.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Since 1970, Neil Feather has been developing esoteric acoustic and engineering strategies to invent, design, and build a constantly developing collection of experimental musical instruments. Using an assortment of mechanical items, from strings and springs to motors and magnets, Feather’s inventions are works of art that are just as appropriately viewed in a gallery as they are on stage. His live performances on these instruments are naturally unique and serve as both sonically intriguing recitals as well as visually compelling demonstrations of his devices. A founding member of Baltimore’s Red Room Collective and the High Zero Foundation as well as a 2016 Guggenheim fellow, Feather was a part of the Bowerbird creative team that helped bring Mauricio Kagel’s Zwei Mann Orchester to life in 2018.
Rosie Langabeer is an award-winning composer, pianist, and band leader from Aotearoa New Zealand. With an output as eclectic as ranging from composing for string quartet, to ballet music, to free improvisation, to solo piano concerts and much much more, her wonderfully honest voice will make you want to cry and then sprinkle in some robot-bird-monsters. The New York Times has praised her surrealism and time-bending abilities, which she earned through collaborations with local heavyweights BalletX and Pig Iron Theatre Company, and her current projects include a suite of compositions for invented instruments by Neil Feather in combination with classical instrumentalists from the Arcana Ensemble; and a new ballet score made in collaboration with Tara Middleton for BalletX’s 2019 fall season this December at The Wilma Theater.
Shizuka Duo is comprised of violists Samuel Kelder and Hannah Rose Nicholas. The two founded Shizuka during the debut of the Barnes Ensemble in Philadelphia (2017), a contemporary music residency with the JACK Quartet. They are alumni of the Lucerne Festival Academy (2015-19), where they were featured as soloists and chamber musicians. Shizuka Duo gave its debut at MISE-EN_PLACE Bushwick in September 2018. They have since performed at Cloud Club (Boston), Spectrum (NYC), Berklee College of Music, Tufts University, and Boston University. The duo has premiered over eight new works, written for them by faculty and alumni composers of Berklee, Tufts, Boston Conservatory, Mannes, New England Conservatory, and the University of Pennsylvania. Sam and Hannah both play on instruments made by Hiroshi Iizuka. “Shizuka,” is the Japanese word for quiet and calm, and the name of a heroine in Japanese folklore known for her beauty and her dance.
11/22/2019 8:00 PM - 11/22/2019 8:00 PM
Bowerbird is pleased to present an evening featuring a new collaborative work by between vocal group Variant 6 and instrumental / percussion trio Square Peg Round Hole.
Philadelphia vocal sextet Variant 6 are staunchly devoted to performing new music, commissioning and collaborating with a wide variety of forward-looking composers and ensembles, yet they achieve such feats using peerless techniques and approached dating back to Renaissance and Baroque eras. Its peerless choristers and soloists—all of whom also belong to the acclaimed choir the Crossing—eschew historical divides, finding dazzling ways to unite the past and future, complementing a mastery of medieval music with fluency in global traditions, whether traditional Georgian choral sounds or Tuvan overtone singing, and contemporary pieces that deploy fascinating extended techniques and idiomatic sprawl.
Recently Variant 6 contributed to Branches, the stunning new album by the Philadelphia percussion trio Square Peg Round Hole, which shares a commitment to creating music outside tidy categories. The group’s voices both go through electronic processing and unfold with crystalline purity in richly atmospheric post-rock settings, providing texture and melodic splendor. Trio members Evan Chapman, Sean M. Gill, and Carlos Pacheco-Perez utilize a standard drum kit, vibraphones, electronics, analog synthesizer, and found sounds to forge a shimmering sound that toggles between serene ambience and driving rhythms, splitting the difference between the music of Steve Reich and Tortoise while inventing a compact sound world all its own. Each ensemble will perform its own set and then join forces, performing the music they made together for Branches and sharing new collaborations.
12/11/2019 8:00 PM - 12/11/2019 8:00 PM
This superb New York chamber trio deftly applies the instrumentation of the classic jazz piano trio to dazzling new contemporary writing. Pianist Karl Larson, percussionist Matthew Evans, and bassist Pat Swoboda achieved an early apotheosis in 2018 with American Dream, concert-length commission from the Brooklyn composer Scott Wollschleger, which according Bandcamp Daily, “toggles between Morton Feldman-esque contemplation and pointedly fractured, multi-planar collisions to indicate both the hope and deep disappointments of contemporary America.” Written in 2017, the work for piano, double bass, and vibraphone cycles through incrementally transforming harmony and melody—starting one place, and ending up another without drawing attention to the journey. The piece only gained resonance within the increased division and disenfranchisement in the US, its meditative, often fraught dualities reflecting disparate visions of the title concept—whether utter disenchantment or guarded vitality. Gas Station Canon Song and We See Things adroitly bookend that work, with fractured elements of each obliquely contained within American Dream. This evening’s program opens with Trio, a commissioned work by Katherine Balch—currently composer-in-residence with the California Symphony—which the trio premiered at Pioneer Works in April of 2019.
Balch’s Trio was written to be a kind of intense, jittery explosion that showcased the virtuosity of my friends in Bearthoven. Tight-knit, pulse-y movements of “jitter music” (I, III, and V) are offset by contrasting episodes (II, IV) with a brief winding-down coda, like the slowing of breath at the end of a sprint (VI). This “jitter music” begins with hushed, delicate, crisp sounds but gets progressively more overtly rhythmic and less delicate throughout the approximately 18-minute piece. While each instrumentalist is featured as a soloist in different ways, because of my strong association of this ensemble with the jazz trio, the piano takes a particularly forward role.
– Katherine Balch: ‘Trio’
– Scott Wollschleger: ‘Gas Station Canon Song’
– Scott Wollschleger: ‘American Dream’
– Scott Wollschleger: ‘We See Things That Are Not There’
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Bearthoven [ \’bâr-toh-vən\ ] is a piano trio creating a new repertoire for a familiar instrumentation by commissioning works from leading young composers. Karl Larson (piano), Pat Swoboda (bass), and Matt Evans (percussion) have combined their individual voices and diverse musical backgrounds, coming together to create a versatile trio focused on frequent and innovative commissioning of up-and-coming composers. Bearthoven is rapidly building a diverse repertoire by challenging composers to apply their own voice to an instrumentation that, while common amongst jazz and pop idioms, is currently foreign in the contemporary classical world.
Formed in 2013, Bearthoven has quickly established themselves as a forerunner in the New York City contemporary music scene. Commissioning over 30 new works in their first six seasons, the trio has created its own diverse repertoire ranging from the driving, post-minimal voices of Ken Thomson, Brooks Frederickson, and Shelley Washington to the atmospheric and abstracted offerings of Sarah Hennies, Scott Wollschleger, and Anthony Vine. Bearthoven’s commitment to collaboration and innovation has garnered both critical and peer acclaim and has led to featured performances on notable series including the MATA Festival, the Bang On a Can Marathon, the Music/Sound Series at EMPAC, the Princeton Sound Kitchen, and the Ciclo de Conciertos de Música Contemporánea in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The group’s debut album Trios was released on Cantaloupe Music in May of 2017. Their second album, American Dream, features the works of Scott Wollschleger, and was released in February of 2019 on the same label. Bearthoven was recently selected as 1 of 24 ensembles to be a part of the inaugural New Music USA Impact Fund cohort.
Katherine Balch’s Trio has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.
12/20/2019 8:00 PM - 12/20/2019 8:00 PM
Sarah Hennies: Contralto
plus Flourish with Ashely Tini
Ithaca composer and percussionist Sarah Hennies presents a cinematic version of her stunning 2017 video work Contralto, a bracing yet tender meditation on gender dysphoria viewed through the lens of transgender women finding a comfortable new speaking voice. Based on her experience in Ithaca College’s Voice and Communication Modification Program for People in the Transgender Community, the composer gathered seven diverse transgender women to perform vocal exercises designed to aid in so-called, “voice feminization.” Contralto is an intimate glimpse into the participants articulating stock phrases, singing notes, and sharing personal details to present a powerful example of the harrowing difficulties involved in the process. While the video stands on its own as an experimental documentary, it’s greatly enhanced by an inextricably woven score by Hennies that underlines the sense of futility embedded in quotidian, wok-like exercises practiced by the video subjects, which by default become symbolic acts of resistance in the transgender community.
To open the evening Hennies and Philadelphia percussionist Ashley Tini—who is among the musicians on the cinematic version of Contralto—will perform the composer’s Flourish (2013), for two vibraphonists positioned on opposite sides of the same instrument. The work presents different modes of stasis, from relentlessly pulsing mallet strikes to billowing clouds of overtones and spooky interference patterns.
01/17/2020 8:00 PM - 01/17/2020 8:00 PM
Since her emergence in New York’s No Wave scene in the late 1970s as a percussionist in DNA, Japanese native Ikue Mori has used auto didacticism to forge one of the most singular aesthetics in contemporary music. Since switching from a richly intuitive approach to drums to electronics during the 1980s she’s refined an elusive, liquid sound that translated her rhythmic vocabulary into a shape-spilling mass of daydreaming gurgles, bloops, smears, rattles, and fractals that’s at once serene and unsettling. She’s a master improviser, adapting a recognizable sonic palette from real-time processing according to the needs and variables of each situation. Over the years she’s formed inextricable bonds with musicians like John Zorn, Zeena Parkins, Craig Taborn, and Sylvie Courvoisier, among others, steadily enhancing within and adapting to each disparate context.
New York improviser and composer Charmaine Lee has quickly become a force in experimental music circles in the last few years, parlaying her voice with staggering extended technique and electronics to create a forceful, elusive practice that shares more in common with noise and experimental approaches than conventional singing. Her wordless, cacophonous improvisations viscerally transmit ultra-high- pitched frequencies, manic vocal fry, and guttural shrieks manipulated with distortion, feedback, and objects like glass and water to deliver an unsettling attack that is simultaneously brittle and violent. Mori and Lee will each perform solo, followed by a duo set—a young partnership marked by exquisite tension, piercing timbre, and quicksilver exchange.